A natural gas explosion destroyed three-row houses in Baltimore on Monday morning, killing a woman and trapping other people in the debris. At least six people were seriously injured, and firefighters were searching for more survivors. Dozens of firefighters converged on the piles of rubble. A fourth house in the row was ripped open, and windows were shattered in nearby homes, leaving the northwest Baltimore neighborhood of Reisterstown Station strewn with glass and other rubble.
“It’s a disaster. It’s a mess. It’s unbelievable,” said Diane Glover, who lives across the street. Her windows were shattered and her front door was blown open. “I’m still shaken up,” she said hours later.
Seven people were hospitalized, while a woman was pronounced dead at the scene, the department said on its Twitter page. Rescuers were painstakingly going through the rubble by hand, prepared to work into the night.
“We’re trying to make sure that we comb through every area to determine if there are any victims inside,” Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams said at an afternoon news conference.
While the cause wasn’t immediately clear, The Baltimore Sun reported last year that dangerous gas leaks have become much more frequent, with nearly two dozen discovered each day on average, according to the utility’s reports to federal authorities. The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. has thousands of miles of obsolete pipes that need to be replaced, an effort that would cost nearly $1 billion and take two decades, the newspaper said.
No gas odors were reported prior to this morning’s event and BGE did not receive any recent gas odor calls from the block of homes that were damaged, it said in a statement late Monday.
BGE said it responded to the scene at the fire department’s request to shut off all gas and electric service to make the scene safe. BGE has canvassed the area and found no current readings of gas. A statement from the utility said it will conduct an investigation of its equipment in the area.
“Area inspections will encompass homes and gas equipment in a wide area to ensure there is no additional damage,” the statement said. “In addition, BGE is reviewing records for this area, including any reported gas odors, recent inspection results and repairs.”
Glover, 56, and her 77-year-old father, Moses Glover, were at home when the massive explosion shook their house, knocking over a fan and some of her DVDs.
(With agency inputs)