Chicago building explosion today, collapse leaves 8 injured in South Austin in Washington, Central, CFD says

CHICAGO (WLS) — At least eight people were injured in a building collapse caused by an apparent explosion in South Austin on Tuesday morning.

CFD tweeted just after 9:20 am that five ambulances had been called to Washington Street and Central Avenue. The number was later increased to 10.

Chicago Fire Department officials said at least eight people were injured in the incident, three of whom suffered serious to life-threatening injuries. One of the injured came from a building across the street.

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The explosion ripping through the top floor of the building could be felt blocks away.

“My foundation of my house shook like an earthquake,” said Ashunda Harris, who lives in an apartment a few blocks away. “I saw a puff of smoke coming from the building. It was kind of a base smoke, not like smoke from a fire.”

CFD spokesman Larry Merrit said they believed everyone was settled by about 10:30 a.m

Firefighters said the blast happened on the top floor of the apartment building, but it’s not yet known what caused it. It was so strong that it shattered windows and covered cars in the street with bricks and glass. Surrounding buildings were also evacuated and schools were closed early.

It is not known at this time how many people have been displaced, but the Red Cross is providing food and shelter at Circle Urban Ministries down the road.

Chicago fire officials said two male victims were taken to Loyola University Medical Center; one was in critical condition and the other remained stable.

Another male victim and a female victim were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital. They also remained stable.

Another female victim was taken to West Suburban Medical Center, where her condition is stable, and another male victim was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he is in critical condition, Chicago Fire Department officials said.

A male victim whose condition is stable and a male victim in critical condition were also taken to Stroger Hospital.

The victims suffered burn injuries and traumatic injuries, the fire department said.

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“A large burn on the body can require months of treatment, let alone recovery afterwards,” said Dr. Joshua Carson, medical director of the burns center at Loyola University Medical Center. “So it really can be anything.”

Carson said burns to the body can sometimes make other trauma difficult to treat as well.

“With these building collapses, explosions, the burns are overwhelming and everyone sees the burn when the patient walks in and what you really need to do is make sure your team knows not to get distracted and not forget about the other kind of trauma that they can’t see,” he said.

Online inspection records for the blasted building reviewed by the I-Team show a history of inspection failures and suspected code violations.

The building failed its last inspection in February 2020. Inspectors cited six suspected rule violations, including “dryer vents – missing flaps” for gas washer dryers, washed-out grout on some parapet walls, and garbage and debris in the backyard.

Records show the building has a history of failed inspections. It also failed city inspections in July 2019, twice in 2018, twice in 2017, and once in 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

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Records show the building was the subject of an administrative hearing in 2019 and 2013, but it is currently unclear what those hearings were for or how they were resolved.

The I-Team has requested further details on the violations and the hearings from the Department of Buildings.

Roman Viere, the building’s owner, said in a statement: “This is a devastating event and we are heartbroken for all of our residents.

“Our first concern is the health, well-being and safety of our residents. We are doing everything we can to cooperate with the emergency services and we stand ready to do whatever it takes to support our residents.”

People’s gas crews responded to the scene.

A company spokesman said there was no reason to believe the cause was related to gas or any of its equipment.

WATCH: CFD Deputy Commissioner describes building collapse response

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is on site, as is the CPD Bomb Unit.

In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said: “My thoughts go out to those who were injured and displaced in the Austin borough building collapse. We must also thank the brave men and women of the Chicago Fire Department who are working to alleviate dangerous conditions. I am closely monitoring events and both the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) and Department of Buildings (DOB) are on site at the collapse. We will provide updates as the situation evolves.”

ABC News contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All rights reserved. Chicago building explosion today, collapse leaves 8 injured in South Austin in Washington, Central, CFD says

Laura Coffey

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