Frustration is mounting and time is running out for dozens of families displaced in Wednesday’s devastating apartment explosion in Southern Dallas.
A number of displaced tenants of the Highland Hills Apartment complex were able to return to their units Friday and gather what belongings they could in 20 minutes.
More than 200 people have been forced from their homes.
Displaced residents have been provided shelter at two downtown Dallas hotels, including the Fairfield Inn. Vouchers provided by the city’s department of emergency management were good for three days. Residents expressed frustration on Friday morning, saying they have nowhere to go after Saturday.
Then late Friday afternoon, the city announced, ‘the Dallas Office of Emergency Management has extended hotel stays for residents at least through the weekend as the office works with the property on utility restoration.’
Dallas firefighters were called to the apartment complex just before 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday to investigate a possible gas leak.
As firefighters were investigating the smell, part of the building blew up.
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Eight people were hurt, including three firefighters were remain hospitalized with serious injuries including burns.
Dallas Fire-Rescue said Friday the firefighters are in critical but stable condition, and that ‘DFR remains optimistic about their outcomes.’
Fire investigators continued to comb through the rubble to determine what caused the blast.
On Thursday, members of the fire marshal’s office took several photographs of a white door and a mangled stove found in the debris.
Several residents tell NBC 5 they smelled natural gas days leading up to the explosion and reported it to their apartment management.
Jason Evans, spokesman for DFR says it will likely take an extended period of time to determine the cause of the explosion.
Tenants gathered Friday to express frustration over how the situation has been handled as well as concern given their hotel vouchers are only good until Saturday.
Stepheny Leavy said she was informed other buildings could also be torn down.
“If they’re going to demolish the apartment complex then, where we will go? Where are they going to put us,” she asked.
Several non-profits are showing up to help distribute donations, including For Oak Cliff, the American Black Cross and Not My Son.
Not My Son has been designated as the lead non-profit group to help the affected residents, according to the group.
Tenants like Audelia Camarillo says while they have had little to no communication from their apartment management, October rent was taken out of her bank account.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who represents the area, surveyed the damage on Friday.
“I certainly have a great deal of understanding for their frustration and I’m doing all I can to get them situated,” said Rep. Johnson. “We have to wait for the investigation to be completed before we can determine who is at fault, but we must assist the people in getting somewhere to be. Right now, they’re in hotels and the city is picking up the tab. There’s a question as to whether we can continue with that arraignment so we’re working on where they can be safely placed.”
Rahim Budwani’s home is among those destroyed in the building that exploded. He, like several residents, claims he reported the smell of natural gas well before the blast, but nothing was done.
He says he has yet to hear from apartment management.
“You’re not giving us information for insurance agency, you’re not giving us information what’s going on,” he said about the apartments. “The city of Dallas needs to shut the whole thing down, even Mountain Creek and find out what’s going on.”
The group Not My Son is accepting donations including new clothing, food and toiletries including adult diapers and feminine products.
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