36 taken to hospital after Texas floor collapses

A floor collapsed under a large crowd of people gathered for a religious event Thursday at a suburban Houston home, sending three dozen people to hospitals, though most suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

The collapse occurred while as many as 125 people assembled for the event in a residential neighborhood in Katy, just west of Houston. People were in an apartment above a detached garage when the floor gave way, though it wasn't immediately clear how many people were inside at the time, West I-10 Fire Department spokesman Tim Thomas said.

He said 36 people were taken to hospitals, mostly with minor injuries, though three people suffered "urgent" but not critical injuries.

More than a dozen ambulances rushed to the scene shortly after the collapse was reported around 1 p.m. A few people were trapped when the floor above the garage "pancaked in," though emergency crews were able to pull victims free, Houston Fire Department Capt. Ruy Lozano said.

Firefighters and emergency crews treated people in a makeshift triage area set up in the grassy front yards of nearby homes. Some of those injured were lifted onto stretchers before being taken away by ambulance.

Leticia Sahagun-Rubio, who lives across the street, said she was in her home when she heard a commotion outside. When she looked at her neighbor's home, "I saw streams of people were just coming out," she said.

She said many of them couldn't speak English, so she started giving them water. She said emergency crews arrived almost immediately.

"It was just a stream of ambulances. For 30 minutes, you could hear nothing but ambulances," she said.

She said the family who lives at the home, an Indian couple and their college-aged son, had sent neighbors letters a few days earlier saying they would be holding a religious ceremony to bless a temple.

She estimated between 100 and 150 people were gathered at the family's two-story brick home, where the front doorway was decorated with red, turquoise and white fabric and a large white tent had been set up with stacks of folding chairs. Men were mostly dressed in white linen pants and shirts, while many women were dressed in brightly colored saris.

Christina Ramirez, who lives next to the home, said some of the people had bloodied clothes after the floor collapse while others asked her for ice for head and ankle injuries.

"There was a lot of chaos at first," she said.

Nobody was in the garage below the apartment when the floor gave way, Thomas said. Witnesses told local television stations people were trying to hold up beams after the floor collapsed. The two-story structure that contained the garage and apartment had itself not collapsed. But from the outside, the wood siding in the middle of one wall had come apart.

Lozano, the fire department official, said building inspectors don't regulate the number of people in such residential structures.

"We just have to use good judgment," he said.