At least three people were injured after an explosion levelled a shopping centre in Harrisonburg, Virginia on Saturday morning.
The explosion and fire damaged several stores and sent a thick column of smoke from Miller Circle, roughly a mile from the James Madison University campus.
Two people were air-lifted from the scene in serious condition, according to Harrisonburg authorities. Firefighters responded to the three-alarm blaze after the explosion was reported after 8.30am.
“My team and I are closely monitoring the situation in Harrisonburg after a gas explosion this morning,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
Harrisonburg officials have not confirmed that it was a gas explosion.
“First responders and firefighters are on the scene, and we have deployed state emergency personnel for additional support,” the governor said. “Please avoid the area.”
Roughly two hours after the explosion, a statement from city officials said investigators are determining its cause “but the incident is contained to this building and there is no cause for concern related to additional structures or incidents.”
Several stores from the centre have reported that their employees are safe.
In a statement on Facebook, Hometown Music said it has “received information from our landlord that the store has been destroyed by an explosion.”
“We were not open and the employees are OK,” the statement said. “Thanks for you concern and prayers.”
Another store in the strip mall, Blue Sprocket Sound, said that the “crew is safe, and that’s the most important thing.”
Harrisonburg spokesman Michael Parks said it was a “one-time event" to the area.
“There were reports of an explosion. When we responded to the scene the building was engulfed," he said.
Images from the morning’s blaze show large cranes and firefighters blasting water across the flames, surrounded by piles of wood and other building materials from the site.
Harrisonburg Fire Department Chief Matt Tobia said that more than 70 responders arrived on the scene.
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