North Carolina firefighters responding to a gas leak were evacuating people from a building Wednesday morning when it exploded, killing one and injuring more than a dozen others, officials said. Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos said the blast at 10:07am involved five buildings on the block and catastrophically damaged one. "It looks like the front of the Pentagon on 9/11—but on a very, very small scale," he said, noting that he was a first responder during the terrorist attacks. On Wednesday afternoon, jagged roof beams jutted out of the collapsed building, along with bent sheet metal, bricks, and wood, the AP reports. A massive stream of water from a ladder truck sprayed onto the remnants, draining down the street as firefighters walked past. Half of the caved-in roof cascaded into the rubble pile like a breaking wave.
Now that the fires have been contained, crews will begin search and rescue operations, Zoldos said at a news conference. No one is unaccounted for, the chief said, but they'll use dogs and listening devices to make sure no one is inside the rubble. A total of 17 people were seen at hospitals—six in critical condition and one transported to a burn center—Durham EMS Assistant Chief Lee Van Vleet said. Zoldos said one firefighter was seriously injured and in surgery but expected to recover. Zoldos said the cause of the explosion was still under investigation. A contractor boring under a sidewalk had hit a 2-inch gas line, causing the leak, Durham Police Department spokesman Wil Glenn said. Blocks away, the blast shattered windows and blew at least one door off its hinges in the Brightleaf shopping district; at least four people working in cubicles along the windows of an office building across the street from the destroyed building suffered deep cuts, bloody head wounds, and other injuries. (Read the full story.)