An explosion at a three-story apartment building rocked the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis early Wednesday and a subsequent fire left at least 14 injured, some critically.
Several residents – KSTP reports it as "at least four" – were still unaccounted for as of Wednesday night. Investigators have not been inside the wreckage of the building, but hoped to gain entry as early as Thursday, the Star Tribune reports. Building inspectors are assessing the safety of the site. The newspaper says family say three or four apartment residents are missing "and feared dead."
Three people remained in critical condition Wednesday night, with six others listed in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to a WCCO report. Other victims were taken to the University of Minnesota Medical Center-Fairview.
The injuries range from burns to trauma suffered when victims fell or jumped from windows to escape the blaze, MPR News reports.
The Star Tribune has video of an interview with one of the injured residents from his bed at Hennepin County Medical Center. Adani Ali, 74, escaped through the flames and had burns on his hands, face and feet.
A cause of the fire has not been determined.
Multiple fire crews battled the inferno in brutal subzero temperatures, and firefighters described the scene as a "war zone," KSTP reported. MPR has a slideshow, with one image showing bits of the building blown across the street.
Ice – a result of the firefighting – created dangerous conditions for at least 55 firefighters working the fire, the Associated Press reported.
The explosion and three-alarm fire, first reported after 8 a.m. in the 500 block of Cedar Avenue South, gutted the building's interior. The structure was left an icy brick shell after the flames were doused.
The Pioneer Press reported that a woman who lives nearby the building said her 7-year-old son woke her by saying, "'Mommy, there are flames."
"Every second, it seemed like a new flame," the witness told the newspaper.
Family and friends of the victims met at Brian Coyle Community Center Wednesday as they sought help and information. Apartment resident Ismail Adan, 34, a truck driver, who was not home at the time of the blaze, said his cousin was at home and may have leapt from a third-floor apartment in the three-story building.
"Initially, we cried and we felt really bad," Adan told FOX 9 News via a translator. "He told me that he jumped from the top into the street and he injured his hip and some other parts of his body."
FOX 9 reports that the Somali community in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is rallying around the victims.
Adan told the Star Tribune that all the apartment residents are single men. Fire officials had said the damaged structure contained 10 apartments, nine occupied.
Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center Supervisor Greg Nelson said the building housed the immigrant-owned Otonga Grocery and the apartments, the Star Tribune reports. Nelson said the building is likely a total loss.
Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel told reporters at the scene that the size of the intense fire and below-zero temperatures hampered efforts by the firefighters, who were called at about 8:16 a.m. By about 9:30 a.m., the second and third floors had collapsed, he said.
According to the Star Tribune, one of the owners of the grocery store, Ahmed Muse, called police about an "electrical shock" about 8 a.m. When Muse went outside to talk with officers, an explosion on the second floor blew out windows in the building and scattered glass on the street, the newspaper says.
Officials are still trying to determine the cause of the explosion and fire. KARE 11 reports members of the Minnesota Office of Pipe Line Safety were on the scene on Wednesday evening along with Center Point Energy to test for natural gas leaks. A spokesperson told KARE that crews did not find any leaks in the aftermath of the explosion and the area has no history of gas leaks.
KSTP reports both the FBI and ATF have been on the scene to investigate, Wednesday.
An adjacent mosque may have been damaged. Islamic Civic Society of America & Dar Al-Hijrah Board Chairman Abdisalam Adam said he needs to get inside the mosque to observe any damage, but believes it was likely damaged by smoke and water.
On its Facebook page, the Red Cross said it was reaching out to victims:
Among those on the scene Wednesday were Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges, as well as incoming City Council member Abdi Warsame. It was Rybak's last day in office.
Warsame became the first-ever Somali City Council member when he was elected in November. The Cedar-Riverside community, where the fire and explosion took place, is home to sizable Somali and Muslim populations.
Hodges said it was "a tragic morning for the city of Minneapolis."
A few more looks at the blaze: