Two people are missing and at least 14 people were hurt after a gas line in Kansas City, Missouri, exploded and ignited fire, officials said Tuesday night.
There are still no reports of deaths, reports Rhonda Flores, a spokeswoman for the Police Department.
Late Tuesday, firefighters with dogs were sent to search for any signs of people trapped inside JJ’s restaurant.
James Garrett, a spokesman for the Kansas City Fire Department, said three people were unaccounted for Tuesday night, CNN writes.
Missouri Gas Energy, the gas company responsible for the area, released a statement which claims that “early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues.”
The explosion was powerful enough as it shook the Country Club Plaza, an upscale shopping area about 30 blocks south of downtown Kansas City, around dinner time.
Fire Chief Paul Berardi said that initial reports enlisted 14 people hurt by the explosion, nine of whom were taken to area hospitals, including two with life-threatening injuries.
But a separate tally of patients from three hospitals showed at least 16 people were hurt after the incident with three of them in critical condition.
“We are concerned that there may be additional people that were not able to get out of the structure,” Berardi told reporters, adding that the blaze erupted at happy hour. “I always fear there may be fatalities in a situation like this.”
“I am just keeping my fingers crossed that this turns out to be what it looks like on first blush – that this is a relatively low number of injuries compared to what it could be,” Mayor Sly James told reporters. “Hopefully, no fatalities will come out of it, but we don’t know that at this point.”
According to officials, the origin of the explosion has not been established. However, an office building was under construction across the street from the fire scene.
“This investigation is ongoing,” Berardi said. “We do have reports that there was an odour of gas earlier. But, again, this investigation needs to be concluded before we want to speculate on any of that.”
One witness, a resident of the area, said he heard a loud boom and headed toward the noise. He later saw flames leaping from a manhole cover and advancing on the popular JJ’s restaurant.
Jeff Hansen, another resident, revealed that he went to the scene to provide help in needed after hearing the blast and saw six to eight people visibly injured who were leaving the area.
“Obviously there were multiple injuries,” he said. “The question is if there is anybody still in there.”
Dr. Leonardo Lozada, the chief physician at St Luke’s Health Systems, said he heard the expsaid that the explosion was also heard in the hospital, which is a block and a half from the restaurant.
“Yes, it was pretty loud. I just heard it; it wasn’t that traumatic,” he said, adding that some people told him they saw the roof blow off.