A roaring explosion that leveled two homesÂ and set two others ablaze in a huge fire forced about 200 people from aÂ devastated Indianapolis neighborhood where at least two people were killed,Â authorities said Sunday.
The powerful nighttime blast shatteredÂ windows, crumpled walls and inflicted other damage on at least 14 otherÂ homes.
Two people were taken to a hospital withÂ minor injuries after the explosion and fire, said Lieut. Bonnie Hensley, withÂ the Indianapolis Fire Department.
She said firefighters later put out theÂ flames and searchers then went through the rubble and damaged homes one at aÂ time in case others were left behind. At least one body has beenÂ recovered.
Some witnesses said in televised reports thatÂ they heard people screaming ‘help me! help me!’ after the explosion and fire andÂ that two parents and two children were safely pulled from one house that caughtÂ fire.‘This looks like a war zone; it really does,’Â Hensley told The Associated Press.
‘Police officers and fire departmentÂ officials remain at the scene searching for other possible victims.’She saidÂ they used search lights until dawn as they peered into the damaged and ruinedÂ homes.
She declined to identify the only confirmedÂ fatality, saying only that the body was found in one of the leveled homes afterÂ the fire was put out. Fire officials told AP after daybreak that they were notÂ immediately releasing any further information until later SundayÂ morning.
The explosion at 11pm Saturday destroyed twoÂ houses that were side by side and spread fire to two other nearby homes in theÂ neighborhood on the south side of Indianapolis, she said, adding at least 14Â other homes were damaged in the area by the blast’s shock wave or flying debrisÂ it kicked up.
The blast was heard for miles all around, andÂ authorities said they had no immediate information on the cause. AnÂ investigation by fire and other agencies was under way. Reports said the BureauÂ of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also was involved.
Many people were asleep at the time and hadÂ to be evacuated in pajamas, scooping up their pets as they left hastily,Â authorities said. They left what some described as a chaotic scene of tallÂ flames rising on the Indianapolis skyline.
Survivors reported shattered windows,Â caved-in walls and garage doors knocked off their hinges. And of the two homesÂ that were leveled by the blast, Hensley said: ‘There’s nothingÂ left.’
Complicating the pre-dawn search of theÂ neighborhood, authorities did not know definitively how many people were in theÂ neighborhood when the blast occurred.
‘People scattered when all this happened, soÂ we’re not really sure how many people we’re looking for,’ HensleyÂ said.
Bryan and Trina McClellan were at home with their 23-year-old son Eric when the shock wave from the blast a block away shuddered through their home. It knocked the windows out along one side of their home and their first instinct was to check on their two toddler grandchildren in the basement.
One was holding his ears and saying “LoudÂ noise, loud noise.”
Eric McClellan said he ran afterward to theÂ scene of the explosion and saw homes leveled or nearly so.
‘Somebody was trapped inside one of theÂ houses and the firefighters were trying to get to him. I don’t know if heÂ survived,’ he said, adding firefighters were trying to save aÂ man.
He said he didn’t know the man’s fate asÂ firefighters ordered him to leave.
The cause of the explosions remains unknown,Â authorities said. Investigators were expected to better assess the rubble afterÂ daybreak for clues to what happened. Meanwhile, all power, gas and otherÂ utilities were shut off as a precaution as emergency officials swarmed theÂ site.
Approximately 200 people were taken to anÂ elementary school where only about 15 to 25 remained through the night, sleepingÂ on cots. Most of the evacuees subsequently left to stay with relatives, friendsÂ or at hotels.
The powerful blast caught sleeping peopleÂ unaware.
Pam Brainerd, a 59-year-old hospice nurse,Â said she was asleep on her couch when the tremendous explosion rocked theÂ neighborhood, blowing out the upstairs windows in her house.
‘I was sleeping on the sofa and all of aÂ sudden, my upstairs windows were blowing out and my front door was falling in,’Â Brainerd told AP. ‘My front door came off the frame. It was the largest bangÂ I’ve ever heard.’
Right after the explosion she stepped outsideÂ to see what she described tall flames one street away.
‘There was a house engulfed in flames and IÂ could see it spreading to other houses,’ she added.
At the elementary school, authorities soughtÂ to impose order and calm on an initial scene of confusion.
Some evacuees milled about the elementaryÂ school in pajamas and coats they grabbed as they left their homes. Some hadÂ their dogs on leashes and one lady had evacuated her home with a cat. Beyond theÂ school’s parking lot, smoke was still visible, rising in the distance beforeÂ dawn. The smoke was illuminated by bright lights of emergencyÂ responders.
The cause of the explosion and fires wasn’tÂ immediately clear, but Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard immediately squelchedÂ initial speculation of a possible plane crash. “It was so strong that it clearlyÂ had an effect for blocks,” Ballard said while grey clouds of smoke stillÂ billowed after the fires were contained.
While some questioned whether natural gas wasÂ suspected in the blast, he said he had no preliminary information on a possibleÂ cause. He said it was still a time for taking care of those forcedÂ out.
‘We’re going to need some comforting in theÂ next few days,’ Ballard added.
Source: The Daily Mail