A gas explosion leveled three rowhouses in a northwest Baltimore neighborhood on Monday morning, leaving a woman dead and at least seven other people injured, the authorities said.
Firefighters were searching by hand for more people trapped in the pile of bricks, drywall and lumber. One neighbor told a reporter for WBAL-TV of hearing cries of “Help! I’m here!” from people buried in the wreckage.
Seven people injured in the blast, which happened shortly before 10 a.m., were transported to a hospital in serious condition, said Blair Adams, a spokeswoman for the Fire Department. At least one of the injured was pulled from the rubble, said Blair Adams, a spokeswoman for the Fire Department.
The woman who was killed was pronounced dead at the scene, said Ms. Adams, who described the blast as “a major gas explosion.”
Videos showed rubble and debris from the rowhouses strewn across the streets in front of and behind the homes. A fourth home was severely damaged but was still standing.
“It felt like a bomb,” said Barry Leventhal, owner of MidAtlantic Store Fixtures, which is near the site of the explosion.
He and his staff thought a plane had crashed onto the roof of the warehouse, he said, adding that his building’s concrete walls were cracked by the blast. “Everyone scattered, they didn’t know what the hell happened,” he said.
Trained dogs were brought in to assist in the search as rescue efforts continued Monday afternoon. “We’re prepared to be here throughout the night,” Ms. Adams said.
Workers for the utility company, Baltimore Gas and Electric, shut off gas to the entire block, a spokesman said.
Officials were trying to determine exactly how the explosion was touched off. The investigation will include inspection of gas mains and service piping leading to properties and gas meters, as well as nearby appliances, the gas company said in a statement.
Baltimore Gas and Electric — the country’s oldest gas company — has been working to replace thousands of miles of aging gas pipes. The effort to replace the pipes, some from the 1950s and 1960s, will take at least two decades, The Baltimore Sun reported in September.
The number of leaks increased by 75 percent from 2009 to 2016, the Sun reported.
Baltimore Gas and Electric did not immediately respond to questions on Monday about the aging infrastructure.
Rescue crews were struggling against hot and humid weather. The Maryland Transit Administration sent three buses to the site of the explosion for displaced residents and rescue crews to sit in air-conditioning.
Paul Carden, a representative for the Red Cross, said the organization has provided food, water and counselors for residents impacted by the blast. It will also provide lodging for residents who are unable to stay in their homes Monday night.