At least 10 people are injured in an explosion in an apartment building in Maryland

At least 10 people were injured, several seriously, in an explosion and fire that destroyed part of an apartment complex in Silver Spring, Maryland on Thursday morning, firefighters said.

More than 100 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was reported around 10:30 a.m. at Friendly Garden Apartments, a four-story building of affordable units, officials said.

Chief Scott Goldstein of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department said 911 calls reported an explosion at the Silver Spring complex, just north of Washington. When rescue teams arrived, he said, they found a building engulfed in flames.

Large sections of the building were completely hollowed out by fire, with only the facade and one side of the structure still standing. Large piles of broken bricks were seen near a parking lot. Many residents fled alone or were rescued by firefighters.

Three people who were injured in the blaze were seriously injured and seven suffered minor to moderate injuries, Chief Goldstein said. No deaths were reported Thursday afternoon, but several people had yet to be found and rescue teams were still searching the area for survivors, he said.

“That number is still changing,” he said.

In interviews with local TV news stations, residents described harrowing scenes of people fleeing the apartment complex after the blast. A resident said she saw a woman knock a baby out of her window and then struggle to get out herself. A man fled from the building, holding a child.

Several said they smelled gas before and after the blast, but authorities said Thursday afternoon the cause of the fire was still unknown. Prior to Thursday, there had been no 911 calls reporting a gas leak or the smell of gas since Jan. 1, Chief Goldstein said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

By late afternoon, most of the fire had been extinguished and crews were working to assess the stability of the buildings and dismantle any remaining parts that might fall, Chief Goldstein said.

Around 100 people who live in the apartment complex have been displaced by the fire. Three buildings in the apartment complex had been deemed unsafe to occupy, Chief Goldstein said, adding that two buildings were open to limited access and three more were expected to be reoccupied by Thursday evening.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Baltimore said on Twitter earlier Thursday that investigators responded to assist county officials in the investigation.

“It’s obviously a really tragic event here,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich told reporters at the scene of the fire. He said the county would ensure residents who lost their homes had shelter, and that would help them “recover and return to some semblance of normality.”

Mr Elrich said the county would support displaced residents “for as long as it takes”.

“They can’t just pick it up and go find another place,” he said. “We know there is an absolute shortage of affordable housing to begin with.”

At the press conference, Gabe Albornoz, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Council, said a council staff member who lived in one of the affected buildings was at work when she discovered the explosion. Mr Albornoz said the woman’s family had been located.

“But she lost everything, like so many families here this afternoon,” he said.

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