January 01, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS — An explosion and fire ripped through a building housing 10 apartments and a grocery store Wednesday morning, leaving more than a dozen people injured and three unaccounted for, officials and witnesses said.
“This is a tragic morning for the city of Minneapolis,” Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges said.
Robert Ball of Hennepin County EMS said 14 adults were taken to local hospitals, six with critical injuries. He described the injuries as ranging from burns to trauma suffered when falling or jumping from windows.
The main floor of the structure houses the Otanga Grocery, with the upper two floors consisting of apartments.
Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said flames were pouring from the second and third floors when crews arrived. Fruetel said firefighters entered the first floor but were quickly forced to retreat when conditions became unsafe. The second and third floors of the structure collapsed soon afterward, he said.
Mohamed Cheikhabdi, head of the Somali Advocate Justice Center, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that family members have reported three people living in the apartments are not in the hospital and have not been accounted for. The families are worried that they may have died in the fire, he said.
Residents were being interviewed as authorities tried to determine the whereabouts of the missing, Fruetel said. He said it remained too dangerous for firefighters to thoroughly search the premises.
No cause of the blast had been determined, Fruetel said. CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden said there were no natural gas leaks in the area.
Ahmed Muse, one of five owners of the grocery store, told the Star Tribune there was “an electrical shock” in the building, and police were called about 8 a.m. CT. While he was outside with the officers, an explosion on the second floor blew out the windows, scattering glass on the street below, he said.
Fruetel said frigid weather conditions made it both challenging and dangerous for crews trying to put down the blaze. Firefighters swarmed the scene after the call was elevated to three alarms.
The injured were taken to local hospitals. Ten victims, including two in critical condition, were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center suffering from burns, broken bones or both, hospital spokeswoman Christine Hill said. Ball said victims also were taken to Fairview University hospital, whose spokeswoman said she couldn’t release any information.
A mosque next door to the gutted building appeared to have escaped structural damage. Abdisalam Adam, the imam at Islamic Civic Society of America & Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah, said he was praying for those affected by the fire.
“It’s devastating and very sad,” he said.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it was monitoring the fire in case the mosque was targeted, said MN-CAIR board member Zuhar Ahmed.