A natural gas explosion has destroyed several houses in the US city of Baltimore, killing two women and trapping other people in the debris.
At least seven people were admitted to hospital, five of them in a critical condition.
More than 200 people in the neighbourhood were affected by the blast, and about 30 have used temporary shelter since the explosion.
Dozens of firefighters converged on the piles of rubble in the neighbourhood of Reisterstown Station.
“It’s a disaster. It’s a mess. It’s unbelievable,” said Diane Glover, who lives across the street. Her windows where shattered and her front door was blown open. “I’m still shaken up,” she said hours later.
Seven people were admitted to hospital, while a woman was pronounced dead at the scene, The Baltimore City Fire Department said on its Twitter page. One person transported to the University of Maryland Medical Centre is in a critical condition, the Baltimore Sun reported. Rescuers were painstakingly going through the rubble by hand, prepared to work into the night.
“We’re trying to make sure that we comb through every area to determine if there are any victims inside,” Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams said.
The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co (BGE) has thousands of miles of obsolete pipes that need to be replaced, an effort that would be expensive and take two decades, according to reports.
No gas odours were reported prior to the event and BGE did not receive any recent gas odour calls from the row of homes that were damaged, it said.
BGE said it responded to the scene at the fire department’s request to shut off all gas and electric service to make the scene safe. BGE has canvassed the area and found no current readings of gas. A statement from the utility said it will conduct an investigation of its equipment in the area.
“Area inspections will encompass homes and gas equipment in a wide area to ensure there is no additional damage,” it said. “In addition, BGE is reviewing records for this area, including any reported gas odours, recent inspection results and repairs.”
Baltimore City Council president Brandon Scott said he needs “the entire city of Baltimore right now to focus on hopeful prayers for those individuals that have been impacted by this”.
“I want everybody in the city really to rally around those individuals that are still fighting for their lives,” he said at a news conference.