Approximately 40 families were evacuated yesterday from a Prince George's County housing complex after a county housing inspector found during a routine inspection that a major load-benning wall in four apartment buildings had begun to bow.

Prince George's County executive spokesman said all families requiring shelter have been housed at county expense at Edgar Allan Poe Elementary school in Suitland.

The spokesman said the county has ordered the Felex Management Company, which owns the garden-styled Penn-Southern apartment complex at 4103 Southern Ave., Suitland, to make necessary emergency shoring repairs allowing the families to move back.

The evacuation was triggered when a building inspector yesterday noticed that a major load-bearing wall had separated at a number of floor and ceiling joints.

The county's chief building inspector, Arthur W. Brown, was then notified. He found after visiting the complex that the buildings were unsafe for accupancy and ordered them evacuated immediately.

The county's civil defense agency and the county office of emergency preparedness were subsequently alerted, according to a county spokesman. He said the Red Cros was to provide food for the families over the next couple of days.

County spokesmen said the building inspectors had not yet determined the exact cause of the strutural problem, but they indicated that a "progressive settlement in the base of the apartment complex" may have contributed to the damage.

Brown said the "unstable" nature of buildings foundation caused the bearing wall to rotate away from the buildings. He said the damage was most noticeable on the upper floors were the wall had separated 5 to 6 inches from floors and ceilings.

"It was possible that the upper floors could have collapsed if we didn't take some action," said Brown.

A county spokesman said county police will remain on the scene to make sure the property of the evacuated residents it secure.

The spokesman added that all utilities were turned off to prevent the possibility of fire and added that the county was taking some immediate measures to prevent the wall from collapsing.