An apartment building balcony collapsed early Tuesday in Berkeley, killing five people and leaving eight others injured, many of them young people from Ireland, officials said.
Officer Jennifer Coats, a spokeswoman with the Berkeley Police Department, said many of the injured have critical, life-threatening wounds.
Witnesses told local TV stations that there was a party in the apartment where the balcony collapse occurred. Authorities were still trying to determine how many people were on the balcony when it gave way. TV footage from KGO and NBC Bay Area showed the balcony from the building's fourth floor resting atop the third-floor balcony directly below it, reported The Los Angeles Times
Police received a call about the incident shortly before 1 a.m. PDT Tuesday, and when officers arrived they found that the balcony on the fourth floor of the building on Kittredge Street had disintegrated.
The Irish government said that "a number of young Irish citizens have lost their lives" in the collapse and several others were seriously injured.
"My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the deceased and those who have been injured in this appalling accident," Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said in a statement.
Coats said officers are still investigating and she doesn't have any information on how it occurred or what the people were doing on the structure at the time.
"We don't know what happened. Officers on scene are talking with people," she said.
Police were working with both fire officials and building inspectors to try to determine what caused the accident, Coats said.
The incident occurred at the Library Gardens, a sprawling complex built in 2006, near the University of California, Berkeley campus.
She said she also didn't have information on the identities of the victims, including their ages and gender.
"We don't have a lot of specific detail at this point because they (investigators) are still trying to work through it all," she said in a telephone interview.
The building has apartments in the upper floors and retails shops at ground level.
Flanagan said the Irish consul general in San Francisco would be providing assistance to those affected.
AP writer Bob Seavey in Phoenix contributed to this report.