At least two people died and at least seven were critically injured after a gas explosion in Northwest Baltimore that destroyed three homes Monday morning.
The explosion, which occurred near Labyrinth and Reisterstown roads shortly before 10 a.m., damaged surrounding homes. More than 200 rescue personnel from Baltimore City and surrounding counties were on the scene through the evening, searching for victims trapped in the rubble. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.
Latanya Heath was one of several residents who was forced to evacuate after her home was damaged. She stood for hours in the heat as the rescue operation took place, saying she was concerned for her neighbors who had been affected.
Heath said she felt the explosion while working in her dining room.
“I felt the boom, and then heard the glass shatter in my living room, which is a bay window, and I got up because I thought perhaps it was my neighbor who was cutting my grass - maybe a rock hit the window and that’s what caused it to shatter,” she said.
When Heath looked out the front door, she saw smoke and a crowd of people gathering down the street. Her neighbor shouted to her that there was an explosion.
“When I looked down and saw the rubble I was like this is not happening,” Heath said. “Then I looked at my window from the outside. It had blown completely off.”
The back windows of Heath’s house had also exploded. Police told her to evacuate and Heath saw fire fighters at the scene as she left her house.
“It was just total chaos when I was looking out around...doors had been blown off of different neighbors’ homes, the windows had been blown off,” she said. “It was unreal.”
Helen Williams learned about the explosion after getting a call from her girlfriend Monday morning. Her girlfriend’s sister, a close friend of Williams, was at her home across the street from where the explosion occurred.
“She was in bed when it happened,” Williams said. “The roof, it came in. The windows were shattered, the doors and all of that.”
Williams was among several who arrived at the scene to support a loved one, waiting on the lawns of nearby rowhomes for updates on who had been injured or killed. She said her friend was in some pain and injured, but not critically.
At an afternoon press conference, Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams confirmed that there one person was killed and six were critically injured and that they were still conducting a rescue operation.
“We're trying to make sure that we comb through every area to determine if there are any victims inside,” she said.
The Department of Housing and Community Development inspected homes for gas leaks and the Red Cross helped those displaced find temporary shelter in homes and hotels. Baltimore Mayor Jack Young thanked first responders and other agencies at the press conference.
“A lot of houses have been destroyed. A lot of windows have been shattered in this community. Me and the council president just want everyone to pray for these people who have been affected,” Young said.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott called on city residents to do what they can to support those who’d survived.
“I want everybody in the city really to rally around those individuals that are still fighting for their lives,” Scott said. “That's where we should put all our hopes, all our prayers, all our energy.”
Those who wish to support the victims can make an online donation or donate food, water, and other essentials through the Red Cross.
This post has been updated with the latest number of casualties.