Broken sprinkler displaces 40 seniors in Belle Plaine, Minn.

A broken sprinkler line led to the flooding of a Belle Plaine apartment building Friday, displacing 40 senior citizens to city hall for temporary shelter.

For more than a year, Jason Sommerfeld has called Cardinal Ridge Apartments his home, but now he's lost for words because he's lost everything else.

"All of a sudden I heard this loud explosion," Sommerfeld said. "I thought something hit the roof -- a plane or something cause that's what it felt like… the building shook."

Fire officials said a sprinkler line broke in the attic Friday afternoon, sending water pouring down all 3 floors of the building.

"It was more than raining in certain parts of the building," Sommerfeld said. "It was like a waterfall coming down."

Fearing the ceiling or roof would collapse, firefighters had to evacuate all 40 residents -- who are either elderly or disabled.

"They didn't want to leave their home," firefighter Steve Otto said. "They wanted to stay but it's just way too dangerous for anyone to be in that building right now."

The residents along with their four-legged friends found temporary shelter at Belle Plain City Hall while firefighters went back in the building to get personal items and medications.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army are helping those who don't have friends or relatives to stay with because it could be weeks before they are allowed to return.

"It's hard when you get to be our age," Lucille Braaten said. "You have so many medications and monkey business you just don't know what to take when you have to leave like that."

Investigators aren't sure what caused the sprinkler line to burst, but residents say building maintenance has been neglected since the on-site manager was let go a few months back. They hope it won't be long before they are able to call Cardinal Ridge home once more.

"That building has been a wonderful building and I hope we can get it wall fixed up so we can go be happy again," Braaten said.

The good news is no one was hurt in Friday's water leak, but more than 3 dozen senior citizens are out of their homes with no idea when they'll be able to return.

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