Two "sky bridges" inside an enclosed courtyard at the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed onto a ballroom full of dancers tonight, leaving at least 47 dead and 100 injured, police said.
As bodies were pulled from a tangle of twisted girders and broken glass where the walkways fell to the floor, one room of the midtown hotel was designated as a temporary morgue.
After talking with officials on the scene, Mayor Richard Berkley said there would be "more, many more deaths."
One police officer said he could see "arms and legs sticking out all over" from under the debris as rescuers brought bodies out.
"I think it was just the weight of the people that made it collapse," said a visitor, Richard Howard.
Police Chief Norman Caron said injured who could walk were treated where they lay in the rubble.
As rescuers moved through the wreckage, injured awaiting evacuation were comforted by friends. Uninjured people waited outside the building for word of the missing.
At midnight, at least seven people were still trapped.
Officials said rescue efforts were initially hampered by natural gas leaks, but the leaks were controlled, allowing rescuers to use cutting torches and electric saws in the 40-story building.
Harold Knabe, a spokesman for the Kansas City Fire Department, said part of the lobby in the west side of the building also had collapsed. He said equipment, including cranes, was brought in to help people trapped by the collapsing walkways.
The walkways were stacked one over another at different levels inside the lobby, which is five stories high. Police said a walkway three stories up collapsed and knocked down one crossing underneath it.
The ballroom beneath the walkways was crowded with dancers at a "Tea Dance," a Friday night fixture at the one-year-old luxury hotel, the latest to open in Kansas City.
A hotel staff member estimated that at least 1,500 people were in the area.
More than 40 emergency vehicles hurried to the scene, and several of the injured were evacuated by helicopter.
A witness said she heard a sudden, loud, clapping noise. She said she looked up and saw the balconies fall to the lobby floor.
"There were hundreds of people trapped," she said.
Another witness, Sandy Goodrick, said she and three friends entered the hotel about five minutes before the collapse. Two of her friends were trapped in the rubble.
"I was right underneath it when it fell," said Goodrick, who suffered multiple cuts and bruises on her arms, face, neck and legs. "We just walked in and were by this little couch when this horrible explosion occurred and everything just fell down.
"After it, there were guts and blood all over the floor. There were people screaming for help and trapped underneath, but we couldn't do anything to help them.
"There was a man walking out with a woman and her arms and her leg was gone. Later he said she died in his arms."
The collapse was the second in two years involving a major structure in this city.
On June 4, 1979, driving rain and high winds caved in the roof of the Kemper Arena, site of the 1976 Republican National Convention.
There were no injuries in the collapse at the 17,000-seat arena, but damage was estimated at $1 million.
The arena was closed until Feb. 20, 1980, and the city lost an estimated $1.1 million in net revenue from rentals, user fees, parking fees and concessions.