At Least Two Known Dead
Update: Cause of explosion still a mystery. Fire Chief says many more homes may have to be torn down. Scroll down.
Update #2: Videos added.
A THUNDEROUS EXPLOSION IN A SOUTH INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, neighborhood Saturday night completely leveled two homes and destroyed two more houses. At least two people are known to have died in the incident that occurred around 11 pm. So far,
four eight people have been reported injured, but that count may rise.
The blast typical to a natural gas ka-boom is believed to have been triggered in one of the two houses that were demolished. The blast started fires in several other houses in the neighborhood a people for blocks around are reporting damages and upset furnishings.
Indianapolis Fire Dept. photo
The Indianapolis Fire Department elevated the response to two alarms and had 100 firefighters on the scene. By 12:30 am all of the fires were out.
Indianapolis Fire Department
The gas and electricity have both been shut off in the area while crews look for leaks and check out houses to see if they are safe to return to.
The Lafayette Journal and Courier adds:
Authorities fearing a gas explosion ordered an evacuation that sent residents walking through neighborhood streets and across nearby fields in slippers and pajamas, toting children in blankets, some with pets on leashes, some with their pets left behind. Within an hour, more than 200 people were huddling at the Mary Bryan Elementary School, a temporary shelter that soon was flooded with donations of food and supplies. Gas and electricity to the neighborhood was shut off and it's not clear when residents will be able to return.
The blast was so immense, the debris so widespread and the flames so bright that some initially thought it was the result of a plane crash, a notion that authorities quickly dismissed. While a gas explosion seemed most likely, Indianapolis Fire Department spokeswoman Bonnie Hensley said she's never seen a gas explosion that powerful.
"A lot of it looks like a tornado," Hensley said. "The extent of the damage is large and it goes out a pretty good ways."
So devastating was the scene that rescue workers were going door to door looking for victims and marking the houses that had been searched in much the same way tornado-stricken areas are notated.
"Every investigator in town is sorting through the rubble tonight," Hensley said at about 3 a.m. "We don't know if there are any more victims."
Indianapolis Fire Dept.
Update, 3 pm Eastern:
The gas company has checked all of the mains in the area and no leaks were detected. Additionally, there have been no reports of gas smells in the area leading up to the time of the blast.
At a press conference this morning, Fire Chief Kenny Bacon made the following statements (via WTHR-TV):
Chief Bacon said the call initially came in as a residence fire with entrapment. "Our folks are right around the corner. The first commander on the scene hit a second alarm," the chief explained.
Seven people were transported to local hospitals, several from the scene and some who made it to Mary Bryan Elementary School and then were transported.
Bacon told reporters he initially estimated about 25 homes were affected when he got to the explosion scene last night, but he said he realized he had "underestimated by quite a bit once I saw it in daylight."
The chief also said there were "quite a few homes" that were some distance away from the point of the blast that sustained damage. All of those homes will be surveyed. The structural engineers' survey is expected to be complete by Sunday afternoon. Until it was finished, Chief Bacon urged patience.
Homes will be categorized as inhabitable, homes with enough damage that they're too dangerous to enter and homes that can be entered to retrieve belongings. "There are homes that will have to be torn down. There are homes that will be inhabitable within a day," said the chief.
Some of the videos that have been posted:
The early radio traffic has been posted via YouTube. First-arriving unit reports a structural collapse and "a lot of fires."
Thanks to Mark D. for assistance.
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