MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with several apartments near downtown Minneapolis early Wednesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries — some critical — ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.
An explosion was reported about 8:15 a.m., and within minutes a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics, amid sub-zero temperatures, responded to find victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they may have fallen multiple stories.
"It's not clear whether people were pushed out of the building from the explosion, or whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape," Ball said.
No fatalities have been reported, but authorities weren't sure whether any residents were still inside the building. Its roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter and sweep the premises, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn.
Penn said 14 people were taken to hospitals, and six were considered to be critically hurt.
Ten victims, including three in critical condition, were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center suffering from burns, broken bones or both, hospital spokeswoman Christine Hill said.
Penn said victims also were taken to Fairview University hospital, where a spokeswoman said she couldn't release any information.
Officials said it wasn't immediately clear what caused the fire. CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden said there were no natural gas leaks in the area.
Plumes of thick, whitish-gray smoke could be seen rising from the building Wednesday morning, which has a grocery store on the ground floor and two levels of apartments above it. Flames could be seen through third-story windows, and the frigid air was filled with the acrid smell of smoke.
Abdikadir Mohamed, whose uncle owns the grocery store, watched the scene in silence, struggling to put his thoughts into words.
"This is bad," he said.