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1 dead, 6 rescued after gas explosion levels Baltimore homes

Photo of Baltimore following an explosion. (Provided Photo/CNN)

(AP) — 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 where
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

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 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.”

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

“I jumped up to see what was going on. I looked out the
bathroom window and there was a house on the ground,” she said. “It
sounded like a bomb went off.”

Dean Jones, 36, who lives nearby,
ran to the scene. He said he saw a mess of bricks, glass and cinder
blocks — and also a box of pancakes.

“You could tell this was a house that people lived in,” he said.

said he and others began calling out for survivors and located an older
woman who was eventually pulled out by firefighters. Kevin Matthews,
who lives on the block, told The Baltimore Sun that he could hear trapped children shouting: “Come get us! We’re stuck!”

Leventhal, whose warehouse equipment business is about 150 feet (46
meters) from the blast site, said he was in his warehouse when the
explosion erupted and shook his building, damaging lights and a concrete

Fortunately, none of the company’s 10 employees was injured.

“We thought a plane crashed or something. We couldn’t figure it out,” said Leventhal, the owner of Everything Warehouse.

asked the Maryland Public Service Commission to approve a new gas
system infrastructure and a cost recovery mechanism in late 2017 to pay
for upgrades.

“Founded in 1816, BGE is the oldest gas distribution
company in the nation. Like many older gas systems, a larger portion of
its gas main and services infrastructure consists of cast iron and bare
steel – materials that are obsolete and susceptible to failure with
age,” the PSC wrote in a 2018 order approving a modernization plan.

area’s gas infrastructure was installed in the early 1960s. When aging
pipes fail, they tend to make headlines. Last year, a gas explosion
ripped the façade off a Maryland office complex in Columbia, affecting
more than 20 businesses. No one was injured in the explosion early on a
Sunday morning. In 2016, a gas main break forced the evacuation of the
Baltimore County Circuit Courthouse. Under Armour Inc. had to evacuate
its Baltimore office after a gas main break in 2012.

BGE said in a
statement late Monday that its most recent inspection of the gas mains
and services in the area occurred in June and July of 2019 and did not
identify any leaks.

Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott
said he needs “the entire city of Baltimore right now to focus on
hopeful prayers for those individuals that have been impacted by this.”

“I want everybody in the city really to rally around those individuals that are still fighting for their lives,” he said at a news conference.

Associated Press contributors include Mike Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Brian Witte in Annapolis, and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia.

This story has been corrected to show that a quote about BGE being the “oldest gas distribution company in the nation” was written by the Maryland Public Service Commission, not BGE.