Top of Somerville building collapses; no injuries reported

SOMERVILLE — Manager Elias Lopez was standing at the lunch counter of Mixtura restaurant today when he heard a boom and saw dust, the restaurant’s sign, and red bricks tumble from the roof of his Beacon Street building. In the kitchen of the Latin fusion restauarant, cook Carmen Pineda saw the same.

The area where the facade collapsed was cordoned off today. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

“I was so scared, my body shaked,’’ Pineda said. “It was like, ‘Boom!’ Very loud.’’

Both feared they were in the midst of a terror bombing, they said.

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“The thing that came into my mind was what happened at the Boston Marathon recently,’’ said Lopez. “It seemed the same — there was a lot of dust and we couldn’t see outside the window.’’

While the damage they saw out the front window of their restaurant was dramatic, Somerville Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Kelleher said what actually happened was that the parapet wall on the one-story building gave way, showering the sidewalk with bricks, chunks of concrete, and mortar dust.

“Fortunately, there was nobody underneath it,’’ he said, adding that none of the responding firefighters were injured by the falling debris outside the storefronts at 296-298 Beacon St.

Kelleher said the decorative wall on top of the building had likely been slowly corroding for years, and that, for some reason, some routine jostling triggered the collapse. City records show the building was constructed in 1910.

“What caused it to say today is the day? Who knows?’’ Kelleher said. “It could have been a truck driving by.’’

The landlord, identified this afternoon by officials as Stephanie Davos, arrived at the scene, was overcome by emotions and declined comment. Officials and a friend said her father had died recently, and the image of seeing the property he owned heavily damaged overwhelmed her.

Kelleher said the landlord has a number of large decisions ahead, beginning with the hiring of a structural engineer to assess whether the structure can be repaired or is so damaged that it must be taken down.

If the building is allowed to stay put, Kelleher said, it could be several months before the two small restaurants, which together employ about 15 people, will open their doors again. He said all of the utilities have been cut to the building while the structural question is examined.

The owner of Mixtura, Rosy Cerna, said she would try to find work for six people at her other Somerville restaurant, Machu Picchu, but she was not certain she could accommodate them all. She also said her hope was to reopen soon at her current location.

“We really like the area,’’ she said of the neighborhood where Mixtura has been open for about 19 months.

In a separate interview, Tina Zhou, the owner of Zoe’s, said her restaurant was closed at the time of the collapse and none of her 11 employees were inside or near the structure when it happened. With translating help from her friend, she said she simply does not know what her next step will be, or what she can do for her business or her employees.

“She doesn’t know what to do right now,’’ Zhou’s friend, Eesan Chen, said after speaking to Zhou in Mandarin. “There’s lots of things to be looked at.’’

The facade of a Somerville building partially collapsed this morning, and authorities on scene are evaluating the damage, police said.

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