MADRID — A powerful gas explosion ripped through a residential building in central Madrid on Wednesday, killing at least three people and ripping the facade off the structure.
A tower of smoke rose from the building, where repairs were underway on a gas boiler, and spread across Toledo Street near downtown. Aerial footage shared by Spain’s national police showed rubble covering a nearby schoolyard – although Madrid’s mayor said no one was seriously injured at the school.
At least eight people were injured in the blast, one of them seriously, Madrid’s emergency service said in a tweet. And a technician who worked on the boiler is missing, according to the representative of the Spanish government for the Madrid region, José Manuel Franco, who confirmed the three dead.
A police spokesman on the ground told reporters that firefighters were trying to put out a small fire inside the damaged building before they could bring in search dogs and special rescue teams to search for fire. possible survivors.
An Associated Press reporter saw rescuers carry two bodies away from the area, one which firefighters covered in a blue blanket and the other wrapped in a reflective emergency tarp.
The building belongs to the nearby Catholic parish of La Paloma and housed the offices and apartments of some of its priests, Archbishop of Madrid Carlos Osoro told Spanish public broadcaster TVE, which confirmed that none of the clerics was not among the victims.
Emy Lee Grau, a local resident who was watching TV in a building across the street, said the timing of the explosion was “terrifying”.
“Everything shook, it was as if the roof was falling on us. We were terrified when we saw the amount of smoke coming out of the church building,” the 20-year-old Madrid resident told AFP. Associated Press.
A nearby retirement home was evacuated and no injuries were initially reported among residents, Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez Almeida told reporters on the ground. The 55 residents of the home were first taken to a hotel across the street and then moved to other care homes, officials said.
Martínez Almeida also said light damage was identified at a nearby school, where he said people only suffered “scratches”.
Neighborhood resident Leire Reparaz said she heard the explosion and did not immediately know where it came from.
“We all thought it was from school. We walked up the stairs to the top of our building and we could see the structure of the building and a lot of gray smoke,” the 24-year-old said.
AP photographer Paul White contributed to this report.