Explosion levels half of apartment building in Washington DC suburb

Several residents remain ‘unaccounted for’ as the search for survivors, or remains, begins

Justin Vallejo
New York
Thursday 03 March 2022 23:04
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Video shows Silver Spring apartment building explosion
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Hope began to fade as several people remained “unaccounted for” after a massive explosion levelled an apartment building and injured at least 10 residents in suburb of Washington DC.

Montgomery Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Goldstein said at a late afternoon press conference that the recovery would be a “multi-day event” until everyone who lived in the building was accounted for.

Search dogs had “possible indications of alerts” that could be either bodies or survivors, but heavy machinery would be needed to remove unstable rubble before the search could continue.

About 10 people were taken to hospital with injuries, three of them serious, and 100 were displaced by the apartment collapse, which left three of the six buildings in the complex unsafe.

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.

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 personnel evacuated the building and adjacent buildings that suffered structural damage.

They conducted 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.

“Until everybody is accounted for we will not consider everyone out of the site,” Mr Goldstein said earlier.

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.

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