WASHINGTON Federal explosives experts are helping investigate an explosion and fire that tore through an apartment building in a Washington suburb, leaving seven people missing and injuring about 30, authorities said on Thursday.
The blast at the four-story building shortly before midnight in Silver Spring, Maryland, was felt more than a mile away, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott Goldstein said at a news briefing.
"When we arrived on the scene, we found people doing rescues using ladders from construction and paint trucks," Goldstein said.
About 160 firefighters battled the blaze, which was brought under control by Thursday morning. Many stayed on the scene to comb through the wreckage for signs of trapped residents and to extinguish smoldering spots.
Fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said in a Twitter post that experts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were helping county fire investigators as they looked into the cause.
About 30 people, including the three firefighters, were treated at local hospitals, Piringer said in a statement. The blast scattered debris as far as 300 feet (90 meters) from the building, Piringer said.
Clothing was seen strewn on sidewalk treetops in video footage provided by fire officials. Bricks were launched across a roadway, badly damaging a storefront and cars parked nearby.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Laila Kearney in New York, and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernadette Baum)
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