DURHAM, N.C. — A gas explosion caused a building to collapse in downtown Durham, according to city officials.
The explosion happened just after 10 a.m. Wednesday on North Duke Street not long after a gas leak was reported. Police say a contractor boring into the sidewalk hit a 2-inch gas line, causing the leak. Gas company workers and firefighters were at the scene when the explosion happened.
Durham police said at least one person was killed and 17 people were treated for injuries.Six of the patients are in critical condition.
A firefighter identified as Darren Wheeler was seriously injured. He is now out of surgery, according to Durham police.
Durham city officials held a news conference Wednesday afternoon as crews were continuing their search and rescue efforts.
People across the city reported feeling the explosion.
"I've never seen anything like it before," witness Robin Jarvi told our ABC affiliate WTVD. "I was sitting at the traffic light ... and I smelled heavy, heavy gas. There were people in the building. I saw a business owner but a sign that said 'Business is closed for the day because of a gas leak.' As soon as I went through the traffic light, the whole building exploded."
Firefighters are at the scene and asking people to avoid the area.
A school across the street announced it would be dismissing students early because of the explosion.
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