Aug. 11 (UPI) — At least three people were killed and more than 35 homes were damaged in an explosion that rocked the small community of Evansville, Ind., authorities said.
Evansville Fire Department Chief Mike Connelly announced the death toll during a press conference, stating at least one person was hospitalized, but there could be further victims.
Connelly said fire crews were dispatched at about 1 p.m. Wednesday when they received a call about a house explosion on Weinbach Avenue in the city of some 117,000 people located about 170 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
A survey of the scene found at least 39 homes were damaged in the blast, some severely, with 11 now uninhabitable, he said, adding the blast zone had a radius of about 100 feet.
Pictures of the scene posted online by Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke show debris covering the roofs of houses that were still standing, lawns and streets.
A shelter has been established at nearby Vogel Elementary School for those who feel their house is no longer safe due to the blast, Connelly said.
“If anyone needs resources or has been displaced from the incident on N. Weinbach today they can meet the Red Cross at Vogel Elementary School,” the Evansville Police Department said on Twitter.
Connelly added that search and debris cleanup efforts have been halted to allow inspection teams to determine if houses nearby the blast site are safe to enter.
The cause of the blast was under investigation, he said, adding the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaccos, Firearms and Explosives was also on the scene conducting blast analysis.
Winnecke said disaster action volunteer teams have been placed on standby and are ready to support sheltering if need be.
All staff and students who were at Vogel Elementary School when the blast occurred are safe, the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation said in a statement.
Authorities have asked the public to stay clear of the area.