Madrid (AFP) — A powerful gas explosion destroyed an apartment building in central Madrid on Wednesday, killing four people and tearing the building’s façade apart.
A tower of smoke rose from the building, as repairs to the gas boiler was underway, and spread across Toledo Street, near the city center. Aerial footage released by the Spanish National Police showed rubble covering a nearby school yard — although the mayor of Madrid said no one was seriously injured at the school.
All students and staff were inside the school buildings at the time of the explosion.
Madrid’s emergency service said in a tweet on Twitter that at least 11 people were injured in the blast, one of them dangerous.
The representative of the Spanish government for the Madrid region, Jose Manuel Franco, confirmed three casualties, and the Catholic parish that owned the damaged building said that the fourth victim was an electrician, the father of four children, who worked in the kettle and was initially considered missing. .
A police spokesman on the ground told reporters that firefighters were trying to extinguish a small fire inside the building before they could bring in dogs, rescue teams and experts to assess the building’s damaged structure.
An Associated Press reporter saw emergency workers carrying two bodies away from the area, one covered by a blue blanket and the other in a reflective emergency blanket.
Madrid’s Archbishop Carlos Osorou told the Spanish public channel TVE that the building belongs to the nearby Catholic Diocese of La Paloma and has hosted offices and apartments for some Madrid’s pastors. He stressed that none of the victims were clerics.
Amy Lee Grau, a local resident watching TV in a building across the street, said the moment of the explosion was «terrifying».
“Everything shook, I felt like the roof was falling on us. We were horrified when we saw the smoke coming out of the church building,” the 20-year-old Madrid resident told the Associated Press.
Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez Almeida told reporters that a nearby nursing home had been evacuated and there were initially no reports of injuries among 55 residents. Officials said they were transferred to a hotel across the street and later sent to other nursing homes.
Martinez Almeida also said that some minor damage was recognized at the school, as he said people suffered nothing more from «scratches.»
Leir Reparaz, a neighborhood resident, said she heard the explosion and was not immediately sure where it came from.
«We all thought it was from the school. We went up the stairs to the top of our building and saw the structure of the building and a lot of gray smoke,» said the 24-year-old.
Associated Press photographer Paul White contributed to this report.