A natural gas explosion destroyed three row houses in Baltimore on Monday morning, killing a woman and trapping other people in the debris. At least seven people were seriously injured, and firefighters were searching for more survivors.
Dozens of firefighters converged on the piles of rubble. A fourth house in the row was ripped open, and windows were shattered in nearby homes, leaving the northwest Baltimore neighborhood of Reisterstown Station strewn with glass and other rubble.
Seven people were hospitalized, while a woman was pronounced dead at the scene, The Baltimore City Fire Department said on its Twitter page. One person transported to the University of Maryland Medical Center is in critical condition, the Baltimore Sun reported.
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The blast happened in the area of Labyrinth and Reisterstown roads, Baltimore County Fire said on Twitter. Images and Chopper4 footage of the scene Monday showed a massive, still-smoldering debris field and a large emergency response.
Photos: Explosion in Baltimore Destroys Several Homes, Leaves One Dead
Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams said at least five people were inside, maybe more, when the homes exploded.
“They were beneath the rubble,” Adams said. “You have homes that were pretty much crumbled ... A ton of debris on the ground. So, we’re pulling and trying to comb through to see if we can find any additional occupants.”
Officials said Monday afternoon that rescue efforts were continuing, although they could not confirm whether anyone else might still be trapped. Adams said they were prepared to continue throughout the night "as long as it takes."
Rescuers were seen walking across the flattened top of what appeared to be a roof.
Window frames were scattered across the grass, and the remains of a wall and doorframe leaned against the wreckage. Boards, cinderblocks and household items were piled atop of each other. Debris spilled across the roadway, into yards of homes across the street and across the rooftops of multiple other homes in the row.
"It's a disaster. It's a mess. It's unbelievable," said Diane Glover, who lives across the street. The explosion shattered her windows and blew open her front door. "I'm still shaken up," she said hours later.
Glover, 56, and her 77-year-old father, Moses Glover, were at home when the massive explosion shook their house, knocking over a fan and some of her DVDs.
“I jumped up to see what was going on. I looked out the bathroom window and there was a house on the ground,” she said. “It sounded like a bomb went off.”
Baltimore city firefighters are on the scene; Baltimore County also responded to assist. ATF Baltimore special agents and explosives enforcement officers were also called to respond.
"The cause is under investigation as we continue to search for any possible additional occupants," Baltimore Fire posted on Twitter.
BGE turned off the gas in the immediate area after receiving an “initial call” from the fire department at 9:54 a.m. on Monday, utility spokeswoman Linda Foy said.
"We are on the scene and working closely with the fire department to make the situation safe," she said. "Once the gas is off, we can begin to safely assess the situation, including inspections of BGE equipment."
BGE was continuing to work on turning off the gas main, she said later Monday. There are certain parts of the system they were still unable to access, Foy said.
The explosion caused some damage to the gas system, she said. Customers without power in the area should alert BGE.
Seven people were killed and dozens injured when a gas leak caused an explosion in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2016. The Baltimore explosion happened four years to the day of the explosion at the Flower Branch Apartments.
Investigators found a faulty gas regulator was to blame, and the buildings have since been rebuilt. A lawsuit with Washington Gas was settled in 2019.
This article has been updated with information from Baltimore Fire. A firefighters' union previously said three people were critically injured.
CORRECTION (Aug. 11, 2020, 8 a.m.): An earlier version of this story included an incorrect day of the week.
Associated Press contributors include Mike Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Brian Witte in Annapolis, and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia.