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Red Cross Assisting Dozens Displaced By Downtown High-Rise Fire

UPDATE: May 16, 2017 --

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - More than 24 hours after the fire, the Red Cross continues to care for two dozen people left homeless by the blaze that claimed one life.

Many tenants remain at the shelter inside the Convention Center, which was set up by the Red Cross.

Others have gone to stay with relatives.

KDKA's Lynne Hayes-Freeland Reports:

It's still not clear when they'll be allowed back to their homes.

The middle floors were most badly damaged, but those who lived on the upper floors may be able to return sooner rather than later.

Officials are hoping to find the displaced temporary shelter while the damage is repaired.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined.


PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to help people who were evacuated from a high-rise fire in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Firefighters were called out to the Midtown Towers around 3 a.m. Smoke and flames could be seen coming from the sixth floor of the building.

One woman died and several other people were injured.

A spokesman with the American Red Cross says approximately 55 residents from Midtown Towers were taken to the Convention Center shelter.

Red Cross teams were meeting with them individually to assess their needs and make sure they have the essential items they need, including medicine.

According to Red Cross officials, at least 24 evacuees were planning to spend the night at the Convention Center overnight. However, officials said that number could increase.

Many of the more than 100 people evacuated from Midtown Towers stayed in the lobby of the K&L Gates building before heading to the Convention Center, for a temporary shelter.

Many woke up to sounds of loud noises.

"I'm not sure what it was, but when I heard that I thought it was inside the building, so I thought it was right above us. I had no idea what was going to be on the other side of that door when I opened it, but thankfully no fire right there," Kati Hartzog said.

"Thank Jesus I'm alive. I'm kinda concerned about my stuff at this point, but that can all be replaced, most important is life," Shawn Butchko said.

It was a long morning for the residents who had to leave their apartments abruptly. Some were only wearing pajamas as they confronted smoke and flames. The building did not have a sprinkler system.

"As soon as they opened the door, all of this black smoke billowed in, I couldn't breathe, they had to hold my hands to the stairs and thank Jesus I got out and I'm okay," Butchko said.

"My roommate came and he said he smelled smoke so we had to run all the way from the 11th floor to the first floor downstairs," Abdulah Alouf said.

The American Red Cross has teams in place to help the displaced residents with food, clothing and shelter.

"Depending on the size of people who need a place to go will depend on if we need to send them to hotels or if we need to actually open a shelter," Dan Tobin, of the Red Cross, said.

Someone from the fire department was expected to come to the Convention Center and speak with the displaced residents.

Many of them have questions, including when they'll be able to get back into their apartments. Some were being allowed onto certain floors to gather their belongs, but there's no timetable on when they can permanently return.

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