Sources: Third body spotted, others unaccounted for in explosion at apt. complex in Md.


    Sources: Third body spotted, others unaccounted for in explosion at apt. complex in Md. (ABC7's Becca McDevitt)

    Police confirm two people are dead and others remain unaccounted for following a massive explosion and fire at an apartment complex in Montgomery County, fire officials announced Thursday.

    Sources tell ABC7 a third body was spotted and officials have reason to believe additional victims are in the rubble.

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    Officials also say they do not know exactly how many people are unaccounted for at this time. Families on scene told ABC7's Brad Bell that young children are among the missing.

    Firefighters will continue their search on Friday morning.

    In addition to the deceased, several people were injured during the incident.

    Some of the injuries reported are a result of people jumping out of windows, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Goldstein explains.

    “This is a call that you remember for your entire career,” said Lt. Tim Burns, Montgomery Co. Fire Dept.

    Children were also reportedly dropped from windows for fear of their safety, while others were rescued from the building via work ladders from fire trucks.

    The explosion and 3-alarm fire erupted at 11:55 p.m. on Wednesday at the Flower Branch Apartments in the 8700 block of Arliss St. in Silver Spring, Md.

    Witnesses describe hearing a loud “boom” and some residents nearby even reported feeling their homes shake.

    Firefighters at Four Corners Fire Station 16, about one mile away, say they felt the explosion, and initially thought it was from a transformer.

    As of now, 31 people have been injured from the incident and subsequently taken to nearby hospitals. In addition to those 31 citizens, we have learned that three firefighters are also injured.

    The injuries range from minor to serious. Injuries that we know of include burns and fractures from those who jumped from windows. The firefighters' injuries are said to be from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion.

    “Mowing your lawn on a day like this or doing work on your house on a day like this and then go in your house and put on your snowsuit, dress like you were for the blizzard, come out here and do the same thing and that’s roughly what it’s like,” said Lt. Tim Burns, Montgomery Co. Fire Dept.

    We’ve been told that 11 of those 31 that were injured went to Holy Cross hospital and have been released.

    Twenty-eight units in two buildings were immediately impacted, displacing at least 90 people. Red Cross is on the scene providing aid to those who are without essentials like food, water and shelter, fire officials tell us.

    Temporary shelter for those affected by the fire has been put into place at the Long Branch Community Center at 8700 Piney Branch Road.

    Chief Goldstein says the building explosion did result in one building collapse but says four additional buildings in that unit block are in danger of collapsing.

    Building debris was scattered throughout a nearby parking lot, reaching a distance of at least 100 feet from the explosion.

    Washington Gas was able to turn off the natural gas to the apartment building around 1:45 a.m. Officials say there are gas stoves and furnaces in each apartment.

    As of now, the cause of the explosion remains underway.

    Many families haven't heard from their loved ones yet and fear the worse.

    A total of 120 firefighters responded to the scene and battled the blaze for about six hours, we've been told.

    By late Thursday afternoon, firefighters were still on the scene. Officials say they were being sent in for an hour at a time and back out to rest and rehydrate due to an already hot day.

    A safety supervisor was also on the scene to make sure crews remained safe during the heat.

    Fire officials tell us firefighters condition for this type of hot weather. They're given time during their work hours to exercise.

    This is a developing story and will be updated as details become available.

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