NORTH CAROLINA (NBC News) – A ruptured natural gas line is being blamed for a deadly explosion that leveled a downtown Durham, North Carolina building.
Fire officials say a call to 911 reported a strong smell of gas at 9:30 Wednesday morning. Firefighters began to evacuate nearby buildings, but just after 10 a.m., the gas ignited in a massive explosion.
“The whole apartment shook, debris from the ceilings, the windows blew out. It was just crazy,” said Brittany Tipper, who lives nearby.
The explosion claimed the life of a coffee shop owner and injured 25 people, 6 people are in critical condition. A total of seven firefighters were injured in the explosion. The fire chief says one firefighter was in surgery overnight and is expected to fully recover.
According to a fire chief, the coffee shop owner who was not evacuated. He stated firefighters managed to evacuate as many people as possible before the explosion.
Five buildings were damaged. One was destroyed. Search and rescue teams are still on site looking for any additional victims, but so far no one is unaccounted for.
“It looks like the front of the Pentagon at 9-11 on a very, very, very small scale, comparatively, because it’s got the same sort of damage,” said Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos. “It’s got collapse in the middle, it’s got some cantilever debris on the side. And I say that ’cause I was a 9-11 responder to the Pentagon.”
Local investigators, state investigators, ATF and the FBI are all coordinating in this effort. There is a concern of structural integrity problems in many buildings, at least 15 structures suffered some damage.
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