Gas Explosion Hits Downtown Durham, North Carolina
According to Durham Emergency Management, the explosion took place at 115 N. Duke St. soon before 10:30 local time after a two-inch gas line was struck.
Emergency officials immediately responded and evacuated people that were in the buildings around the explosion. Soon after the incident, the city of Durham tweeted that people should avoid the area.
One of the witnesses, Donna Hester, told WRAL TV that the explosion sounded like a bomb and that officers advised her and the rest of the people who were outside looking at the smoke to get back inside.
“The whole building shook. Things started falling,” a witness said.
Kelly Andrus, another witness, pointed out that she thought it was an earthquake due to the shake the detonation produced. Soon after that, a deep, black smoke covered the sky.
WRAL also reported that at least one person died after the explosion and that 17 more were taken to hospitals. Six of them were critically wounded and one of them, who was in serious condition, was a firefighter.
People in the area describe the scene as a war zone. "Half the block is destroyed. Lots of injuries. Our office across the street was blown out. It was terrifying. Glass and debris everywhere. No one killed in our office but several injuries – deep cuts, head lacerations," Jim Rogalski, a witness, told CNN.
A gas explosion has occurred at 115 N. Duke St. Duke St. from Chapel Hill Rd. to Morgan St. is closed. AVOID the area. pic.twitter.com/9UdKMiKx7h— Durham EM (@AlertDurham) April 10, 2019
“The whole building shook. Things started falling — ceiling tiles, and structure and glass and debris. Lots and lots of dust. It was tough to see beyond 20 feet or so,” added Rogalski.
A gas explosion partially collapsed a building in Durham, North Carolina and ignited a fire, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen. Authorities urged the public to avoid the area. https://t.co/7ALgdfX86j pic.twitter.com/gNNAvF81jY— ABC News (@ABC) April 10, 2019
Apart from the building that sustained the main explosion, which was a Studebaker dealership that hosted other businesses, including a coffee shop and a mental health clinic, four other structures were damaged.
Now that the fire is contained, authorities will start search and rescue operations with dogs and listening devices.