BALTIMORE -- A "major" gas explosion ripped through three homes in the Reisterstown Station neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore, killing one woman and seriously injuring at least six others.
The explosion occurred before 10 a.m. at Reisterstown and Labyrinth roads, just behind Reisterstown Road Plaza shopping center near the city-county line. The exact cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Rescue crews pulled a woman from the rubble just before noon and freed another man around 12:15 p.m., according to the Baltimore firefighters union.
"This is a horrendous situation," Baltimore fire Chief Niles Ford said.
Rescuers continue to search the debris for other survivors, fire officials said. Officials did not provide ages of the people who were rescued, but witnesses said they heard children calling for help after the blast.
"It's a labor-intensive rescue," said Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams. "We have homes that were pretty much crumbled."
More than 200 rescue personnel were on the scene Monday, along with Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, City Council President Brandon Scott and police Commissioner Michael Harrison. Baltimore Police warned people to avoid the area, as the gas leak is still active. Crews toiled in sweltering heat, and neighbors were left without air conditioning as power was shut off in the block.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesperson Richard Yost said the company received a call from the fire department around 9:54 a.m. asking crews to respond to the scene.
"We are on the scene and working closely with the fire department to make the situation safe," Yost said. "Crews are working to turn off gas to the buildings in the immediate area. Once the gas is off we can begin to safely assess the situation including inspections of BGE equipment."
One person was buried from the neck down, and another was sheltering in a closet when Kevin Matthews, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration building inspector who lives in the block, arrived around 10 a.m.
Matthews, who has lived on Labyrinth Road for 28 years, said he could hear shouting from children trapped: "Come get us! We're stuck!"