The fourth-floor balcony of an apartment building, crammed with Irish students celebrating a 21st birthday, collapsed early this morning in Berkeley, killing six and leaving seven others with injuries police are describing as "very serious and potentially life-threatening," Reuters reports. "We don't know what happened," a Berkeley police rep tells the AP, which describes the balcony as having "disintegrated" just before 1am local time. "I just heard a bang and a lot of shouting," said a 21-year-old student from Ireland who was asleep in the five-story building. Said another: "I walked out and I saw rubble on the street and a bunch of Irish students crying."
The AP notes that Berkeley is home to hundreds of Irish students in the country for the summer on J-1 visas, with one such student calling it "the Irish hub." Ireland's foreign affairs minister confirmed that "a number of young Irish citizens have died" in the collapse, notes RTE. "My heart breaks for the parents who lost children this morning, and I can only imagine the fear in the hearts of other parents whose children are in California this summer as they seek to contact them now," said Ireland's PM. (Read more Berkeley stories.)