At least eight people have been transported to area hospitals on the west side of Chicago following a building explosion Tuesday morning.
Several of the individuals are reportedly in critical condition and the Chicago Fire Department has requested 10 additional ambulances and is sending a mass casualty vehicle to the scene of the collapse.
Victim descriptions range from burns to ‘traumatic injuries,’ according to Deputy Fire Chief Marc Ferman.
A bomb squad and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also on the scene.
The four story red-brick building is located in South Austin, Chicago on West End Avenue. The explosion occurred shortly before 9.30am Central Time.
Buildings next door to the explosion site have also been evacuated.
The owner of the damaged building, Roman Viere, said, ‘Our first concern is the health, well-being and safety of our residents. We are doing everything we can to cooperate with emergency services, and we are ready to do whatever we can to support our residents.’
It is not yet clear what caused the explosion.
Peoples Gas – a natural gas utility serving the city of Chicago – says there is no reason, of now, to believe the incident was caused by a natural gas explosion. Representatives of Peoples Gas and ComEd were both responding to the explosion.
There is reportedly no gas odor and no equipment issues at the scene of the explosion.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted, ‘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.’
Neighbors in surrounding buildings said they felt the quake of their entire apartment complex during the explosion.
‘I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and everything in the bathroom fell,’ said Brice Collier, 35, who lives across the street.
‘I thought it was an earthquake,’ he told the Chicago Sun Times.
Contradicting the account given by some members of the Fire Department and Peoples Gas, Shannon Nelson, 34, who lives with Collier said, ‘It felt like a terrorist attack,’ noting a very strong smell of gas.
‘It was so strong … your nose is burning.’