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Landslide thunders down on SF buildings

A woman, lower right, looks out her back porch near the edge of a cliff which gave way early Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007, in San Francisco. A landslide sent rocks and boulders tumbling down onto an apartment building early Tuesday, sending 150 residents of San Francisco's North Beach district into the streets. No injuries were reported, but city engineers were assessing the safety of the remaining hillside as well as possible damage from the massive pile of boulders and mud lodged against an apartment building and a night club at the bottom of the hill, Fire Department Lt. Ken Smith said. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

SAN FRANCISCO --A wide swath of hillside came thundering down on a strip club and several apartment buildings in the city's North Beach district Tuesday, forcing residents from their homes and stirring fears of another collapse.

The wave of rocks and dirt shortly after 3 a.m. caused no injuries but led authorities to close a main thoroughfare through the city for several hours. At least 120 residents were displaced and several buildings declared off-limits as engineers tried to figure out how to stabilize the cliff to prevent further damage.

The Broadway Showgirls Cabaret had just closed for the night when the slide pushed in the back wall and apparently broke a water main that flooded the club, said Gary Marlin, whose company manages the club.

"Fortunately, everyone had just left," Marlin said.

The slide deposited a pile of mud and boulders more than 30 feet high and 75 feet wide against buildings at the bottom of the hill and left one 45-unit condo complex perched on the brink of the cliff.

"I thought it was an earthquake," said Steve Liu, 29, an evacuee who heard a loud boom as he watched television.

Building inspectors said no one can go inside at least seven buildings, including the club and the condos. Residents may go in to retrieve belongings from several other buildings but cannot stay.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter for residents evacuated from 86 apartments. About 40 residents likely would need shelter because they have nowhere else to stay, Red Cross spokesman Woody Baker-Cohn said.

The extent of damage and the cause of the slide were not immediately known, but officials said recent rains may have been a factor. More than a half-inch of rain had fallen on the city since Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Department of Public Works Deputy Director Mohammed Nuru described the hill as "super saturated."

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the neighborhood, said bolts and nets had been erected before the slide to help shore up the hill.

"Ultimately no amount of engineering is going to overcome the forces of nature," Peskin said.