‘Like a war zone’: 4 dead, 1 missing after house explosion in western Pennsylvania


PLUM, Pa. (AP) — Four people were killed and a fifth were missing after a home explosion in western Pennsylvania on Saturday morning that destroyed three buildings and damaged at least a dozen others, according to authorities.

Allegheny County officials said three people were taken to hospitals after the blast shortly before 10:30 a.m. in Plum County, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Pittsburgh.

Three people were transported to area hospitals, including one who was in critical condition and two who were treated and discharged. More than 20 firefighters were examined, many for heat exhaustion, authorities said.

The Allegheny County Coroner’s Office was expected to provide additional information about the deceased victims.

Due to the weather and concerns for the safety of the investigators, the rescue workers stopped operating on Saturday evening. The emergency services are expected to resume their work on the construction site on Sunday morning.

Rescue workers reported people trapped under rubble after what appeared to be a house exploding and two others bursting into flames, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said.

Responders from at least 18 fire departments were working to put out the blazes with the help of water tankers from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, Downs said.

Officials told reporters at the scene they didn’t know exactly who was home at the time of the blast and who might have visitors, so they couldn’t give an exact number of people believed to be missing.

The cause of the blast is currently under investigation by Plum and county law enforcement and the county firefighter’s office. The State Supply Commission and local utilities were also on site.

George Emanuele, who lives three houses away from the house that exploded, told the story the Tribune review that he and a neighbor went to the house before the fire got out of control, where they found a man lying in the backyard and dragged him away from the scene of the accident.

Rafal Kolankowski, who lives a few houses away, said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the blast shattered the windows of his home, throwing him and his wife to the ground.

After recovering and checking on his son, Kolankowski went outside and a woman told him that another woman was upstairs and a man was in the basement. The other woman later emerged covered in white ash, but the person in the basement hasn’t come out yet, he said.

“It’s just tragic, I mean, it looks like a war zone — it looks like a bomb hit our neighborhood and it’s just unfortunate,” Kolankowski said. “I was just hanging out with a couple of neighbors yesterday, and now this is happening.”

Jeremy Rogers, who lives two doors down, told the newspaper he was out shopping when he received an alert about a problem at his house and “saw all kinds of things flying around”. His family was able to get out safely and he was allowed to rush inside to rescue his dog, although he was unable to locate the family’s three cats.

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