A major gas explosion tore through a Baltimore neighborhood on Monday, leveling several houses, killing one person, with firefighters battling to rescue at least six people who were trapped initially, including children, authorities said.
At least three people were taken to hospital with reports of critical injury, according to firefighters.
Images on local television and pictures posted on social media showed a section of houses in the north-west of the city leveled, with rubble strewn about.
Three people, all in critical condition, were rescued, the Baltimore firefighters union IAFF 734 posted on Twitter.
“Several houses exploded. At least five people trapped, some children. A Collapse Response and Second Alarm has been called,” the union said on Twitter.
The union tweeted photos of rescue workers climbing over a pile of debris.
The cause of the natural gas explosion remains unknown.
As well as destroying three homes, the blast ripped open the wall of another, spreading debris throughout the neighborhood as rescuers picked through a pile of rubble, searching for victims, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Neighbors responding to the blast dug through rubble and called out for victims, one man told WBAL television.
“It was just chaos,” Dean Jones told the NBC affiliate, saying he ran barefoot to the scene where he found destroyed homes and broken windows, and smelled gas.
“We were just worried about just trying to get people out. Once they said a kid was in there, I lost it. I said I had to get in there now,” he said. “I am not a hero, I’m a human.”
One neighbor who happens to be a building inspector told the Baltimore Sun he could hear shouts from trapped children.
“Come get us! We’re stuck!” came the cries, Kevin Matthews, a US Occupational Safety and Health Administration building inspector who lives on the block, told the Sun.
Matthews found one person buried from the neck down and another sheltering in a closet, the Sun said.
People felt the blast miles away and neighbors said their windows were blown out and doors blasted off the hinges.