At least eight people were injured Tuesday when an explosion tore through an apartment building in Chicago in a ‘mass casualty’ incident, authorities said.
Three of those injured are said to be in critical condition, the Chicago Fire Department said.
The explosion occurred at Central and West End Avenues in the city’s South Austin Neighborhood around 9am local time, and brought down the apartment’s entire top floor.
The top floor of the building was left largely collapsed, as debris filled the residential street below.
‘This is a confirmed explosion but source of explosion not known,’ the fire department said in a tweet.
Six men and two women, all assumed by authorities to be adults, were taken to area hospitals.
One of the victims was in the building across the street from the explosion, Deputy Chief Marc Ferman said during a press conference from the scene of the explosion.
Residents from an adjacent building were also being evacuated. By 11.15am local time officials said they were confident everyone had escaped the affected buildings.
Residents in the apartment building across the street told the Chicago Sun-Times they thought there was an earthquake when they heard and felt the explosion shake their home.
‘I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and everything in the bathroom fell,’ Brice Collier told the Sun-Times. ‘I thought it was an earthquake.’
Collier’s girlfriend, Shannon Nelson, described the horror she experienced.
‘It felt like a terrorist attack. That’s what popped into my head instantly. You only see this stuff on TV,’ Nelson said.
One neighbor, Terrill Townes, heard the explosion from two blocks away from the site, and told the paper it sounded ‘like a bomb.’
The cause of the explosion is currently unknown, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives and the Chicago Police Bomb Squad were called to the scene to investigate.
Other apartment buildings in the area have also been evacuated and searched, officials said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement: ‘My thoughts are with those who were injured and displaced in the building collapse in the Austin neighborhood. We must also thank the brave men and women of the Chicago Fire Department who are working to abate the dangerous conditions.’
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