Fire and rescue crews have “hope” for what appears, so far, to be no confirmed deaths in a massive explosion that levelled an apartment building and injured at least 10 residnts in suburb of Washington DC.
“Until everybody is accounted for we will not consider everyone out of the site,” said Montgomery Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Goldstein. “I’m feeling hope is what I’m feeling,” he added.
Firefighters rescued multiple residents from the four-storey garden apartment building before it was “completely consumed” by flames, in what Mr Goldstein called a “miracle of activity”.
It was too early to determine how or where the fire started at the Silver Spring apartment complex. Residents reported the smell of gas shortly before the explosion about 10.30 am local time Thursday morning.
Ten residents were taken to local hospitals with several suffering from serious injuries and the remainder having minor injuries.
One resident of the building told WUSA9 he woke up to flames in this third-floor apartment before fire and rescue crews helped him and his daughter escape.
Another said there was a smell of gas before “the whole building blew up and collapsed” with multiple people still inside.
“They got my grandma out, they got her out on a ladder truck,” he said. “I still got friends stuck in the building right now, the whole building came down. I’m scared for my grandma”.
Mr Goldstein said about 120 to 150 fire rescue personelle evacuated the building and adjacent buildings that suffered structural damage.
They were beginning a secondary search to ensure no one remained and determine if there was anyone unaccounted for.
Residents were evacuated to a nearby community shelter with the Red Cross helping with temporary shelter.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the apartment complex a collection of affordable housing units and that the loss of was a big set back for residents.
“It’s kind of scary looking at the extent of the explosion,” he said. “It happened really, really quickly and burned rapidly.”
“It was kind of horrifying, when you look at a building and see it gutted with the walls down… all you can think of is what happened to the people.”
Neighbour Garfield Campbell told WUSA9 he heard the explosion and jumped the fence to run toward the blaze, where he saw people with burns down on the ground.
“I started knocking on doors trying to get everybody out,” he said.
This is a developing story, it will be updated.
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