Several injured in ‘catastrophic’ building explosion in Maryland

An explosion and two alarm fires in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on Wednesday partially demolished two residential buildings and took at least 10 people, including four children, to hospital. Two adults sustained trauma, officials said. The explosion struck the Potomac Oaks Condominium on the 800 block of Queens Orchard Boulevard near Rabbit Road around 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. Montgomery County Fire & Rescue received multiple calls reporting explosions and fires that smelled of smoke from miles away. A man who felt the blast in a nearby office said it “felt like it was being bombed.” “…my heart goes out to all.” The fire passed to a second alarm within minutes. Most of the fire was extinguished in about 40 minutes, but crew members were still battling gas-fueled fires in the basement hours later and continuing to battle blazing hotspots. After the explosion toppled part of a garden-style apartment building, video and images from the scene showed massive walls of orange flames and gaping holes. A gap between the two jagged edges of the building, believed to be the site of the explosion, was blocked by smoke. Fifty to 75 feet of rubble and rubble fields covered the lawn outside the building. Large chunks of brick and cinder blocks were visible. “I woke up to the sound of an explosion in front of me,” said a man who found the iron door in the living room blown off. The force of the blast was so powerful that two people in the area told News4 that they were shaken by the blast. Fire and explosion on @brandonsavageQuince Orchard Boulevard have raised two alarms. (Photo: @brandonsavage) Ten people have been taken to hospital, authorities said. Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said two adults were rushed to a trauma center with serious injuries. Another eight people (four children and four adults) suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Goldstein said. Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said others were also evaluated, but the situation remained fluid. There is no information yet on whether anyone else is unaccounted for. Fire and rescue workers were working with Washington Gas to shut off the gas, but it wasn’t safe to look for anyone else inside the building at this time, Goldstein said, before firefighters arrived around 10:40 a.m. He said he rescued two people from the apartment. , said Goldstein. The cause of the fire and explosion is yet to be determined, but Goldstein said there was what appeared to be a “gas-driven” fire in the basement. After first responders arrived, some residents said they smelled gas early in the morning. “The smell of gas was reported to our investigators this morning,” Goldstein said, but 911 workers said they hadn’t received a call about the smell before the explosion. However, it remains unknown if anyone has contacted Washington Gas, other agencies, or building management. Anyone who smells gas at any time should call 911 immediately, Goldstein said. In a statement late Wednesday morning, a Washington Gas official said, “We are aware of the incident this morning in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our employees are responding to support the fire department on the ground. As always, the safety of our customers and community is our top priority. “We are supporting an active response to the incident and we do not have any further details to share at this time.” It was not immediately known how many people live in the affected units. Goldstein said the Potomac Oaks complex has four buildings with a total of 24 units. Two of the buildings were badly damaged and the other two were evacuated. Traci DiMartini, a Potomac Oaks resident, was working in her district when her friends suddenly called her on her Wednesday morning, but it wasn’t until her fire station rang that she found out that the home she’d lived in for 19 years was gone. It has been. Federal official Dimartini, who was making an announcement at the time of the blast, said firefighters were called in to explain to residents. Shortly after, she said she had spoken to her downstairs neighbor who was able to escape. Di Martini said, “She just walked out and I think she was shocked too”, she said. DiMartini spoke to News4 as she rushed home to see if her cat, Rocky, had somehow survived the blast. She wasn’t hopeful. She also awaits an answer as to what caused the explosion. DiMartini told News4 that a neighbor across the hall from her unit was renovating a condo, but it’s still unclear if that had anything to do with the blast. She lost her home but also another neighbor who asked News4 not to identify her. The unit across from DiMartini is being renovated by the new owners, she said. Her feelings escalated as Di Martini told her story of raising her daughter in her own old Gaithersburg condo while away from college. “It’s the only home she knows,” she said. This is at least the third apartment building explosion in Montgomery County in recent years. In 2016, a massive natural gas explosion at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring killed seven people. Earlier this year, an explosion at another building in Silver Spring injured 14 people after a worker accidentally cut a gas pipe. People nearby at the time of the blast on Wednesday said on Twitter they could see the smoke from miles away. A video uploaded by Channing Walk shortly before 9 a.m. showed black smoke rising to the area. Sirens were heard in the distance. Several roads in the area have been closed, including apartments, townhouses and commercial spaces. Nearby Brown Station Elementary School was not affected, but students will be dismissed early at 12:30pm on Wednesday. Get more from NBC Washington.

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