Two people are dead and several missing after a massive explosion rocked a Silver Spring, Md., apartment building late Wednesday night.
Montgomery County officials responding to the blast said Thursday that the blast and fire that consumed the building injured 31 residents, many with smoke inhalation, burn injuries, and broken bones. Three firefighters were also injured fighting the flames.
At least seven people remain unaccounted for. Authorities said there were men, women, and children among the missing but they did not disclose their identities Thursday.
The explosion occurred about 11:50 p.m. in one of the Flower Branch Apartment buildings on Arliss Street in downtown Silver Spring, about a half mile west of busy University Boulevard.
Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein told NBC News that firefighters found chaos when they arrived at the scene.
“People were dropping children and jumping out of other windows,” Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said.
The force of the blast blew debris for a block in all directions, and the fire that resulted prompted an evacuation of approximately 90 other residents of buildings in the same apartment complex.
The cause of the blast remains under investigation. A team from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting the Montgomery County police and fire departments in the probe.
Some residents of the apartment complex told NBC News 4 Washington that the smell of gas permeated the area for a long time.
“I’ve been smelling gas for weeks. I called 911, they came and told us it smelled like incense,” resident Adrian Boya NBC News 4. “That’s pretty sad. It’s like they didn’t take us seriously.”
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett confirmed that the Montgomery County fire department responded to a call July 25 reporting the smell of gas. It is not clear if any further action was taken.
Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamil told NBC News 4 the reports about the smell of gas in the area around the apartments before the deadly blast are under investigation.