BALTIMORE – A natural gas explosion destroyed three row houses in Baltimore on Monday, killing a woman and trapping other people in the wreckage. At least four people were hospitalized with serious injuries as firefighters searched for more survivors.
Dozens of firefighters converged on the disaster scene, where the natural gas explosion reduced to the homes to piles of rubble. A fourth house in the row was ripped open, and windows were shattered in nearby homes, leaving the neighborhood strewn with debris and glass.
“It’s a disaster. It’s a mess. It’s unbelievable,” said Diane Glover, who lives across the street. The explosion shattered her windows and blew open her front door. “I’m still shaken up,” she said hours later.
Four of the homes' occupants were taken to hospitals in serious condition, while an adult woman was pronounced dead at the scene, a fire spokeswoman said. Rescuers were painstakingly going through the wreckage by hand. About two hours after the explosion, a line of firefighters removed a person on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.
Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams said at least five people were inside, maybe more, when the homes exploded.
"They were beneath the rubble," Adams said. "You have homes that were pretty much crumbled ... A ton of debris on the ground. So, we're pulling and trying to comb through to see if we can find any additional occupants."
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.