CHICAGO (CBS) – At least eight people were injured in an apartment building explosion on Tuesday morning in the South Austin neighborhood.
A Chicago Fire Department spokesman confirmed that there was an explosion in a four-story apartment building at 5601 W West End Ave at around 9:00 AM.
A total of 10 ambulances were dispatched to the scene and at least eight people were taken to hospitals. Two men were taken to Loyola University Medical Center, one in severe to critical condition and the other in fairly serious condition. The man and woman were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in fair to severe condition, and the man in severe to critical condition was taken to Mount Sinai. The woman was taken to West Suburban Medical Center in a fairly serious condition. Two men were admitted to the Stroger Hospital, one in severe to critical condition and one in fairly serious condition.
Fire Department Deputy Commissar Marc Ferman said one of the injured people was at the time in a building across the street.
The fire department had to bring in crews to reinforce the building during a search of the building which lasted from 11:15 am. However, Ferman said officials believe they all left the building.
A video of the Chicago Fire Department posted on Twitter shows a large amount of debris on the street in front of the building. Chopper 2 also noticed debris on the roof of the building across the street.
One of the neighbors, Shannon Nelson, said she was lying in bed when she heard the explosion.
“My bed was shaking almost like an earthquake,” said Nelson.
CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reported that the blast debris pattern had all the patterns of natural gas explosions, and Nelson said he smelled natural gas in the air following the blast.
However, a spokesman for Peoples Gas said the cause of the explosion remained unknown and “there is currently no reason to believe that the cause is related to the gas or to any of our devices.”
Ferman said the official cause of the explosion remains under investigation. Peoples Gas has cut off the natural gas supply to the building.
According to the Fire Department, both the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Chicago Police Department Bomb Unit were on site to assist with the response and investigation.
The explosion occurred on the top floor of a building on the eastern side of the structure, throwing a large amount of bricks and other debris onto the street, damaging at least three cars parked along the curb.
As a result of the explosion, the roof of at least one unit in the building collapsed, and several windows in the building fell out.
In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her thoughts are with people injured and displaced by the explosion.
“We also need to thank the brave men and women of the Chicago Fire Department who are working to alleviate the dangerous conditions,” she said.
135 firefighters and paramedics responded to the scene.
The Chicago Department of Construction also responded to this scene.
Records from building inspections show that the building has not passed the last 12 inspections since 2010, including January 2017 and February 2018 confirming that “defective or dead smoke detectors are not repaired or replaced continuously”.
In a statement, building owner Roman Viere said: “This is a devastating event and we have a broken heart for all our residents.”
“Our primary concern is the health, well-being and safety of our residents. We are doing everything we can to cooperate with the emergency services and we are ready to do whatever we can to support our residents, ”added Viere.
Ferman said it was unclear how many people were left homeless.
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