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Huge blast shakes Madrid, apparently due to gas leak; 3 said killed

First images and footage shared on social media show tower of smoke coming out of six-story building and rubble scattered near the city center

Health professionals evacuate an injured from the scene of an explosion in downtown Madrid, Spain on Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Health professionals evacuate an injured from the scene of an explosion in downtown Madrid, Spain on Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID — At least three people were killed on Wednesday when a huge explosion ripped through a building in Madrid, with officials confirming it was caused by a gas leak.

Images from the scene showed the walls on the top four or five stories of the residential building in the heart of the La Latina neighborhood had been blown out, with vast quantities of debris spreading far and wide.

Emergency crews could be seen aiding several people on the ground.

Speaking at the scene, Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said an 85-year-old woman had died along with a man whose age was not immediately clear, while the third victim was still “under the rubble.”

Another 11 people were injured, one of whom was in serious condition. Church sources told AFP it was a recently-ordained priest.

A fire that started inside the building made it more difficult for rescuers and firefighters to look for any other possible survivors, Martínez Almeida said.

A nearby nursing home was evacuated although no injuries were initially reported among the residents, Martínez Almeida said. He said the residents were being taken to a hotel across the street.

Martínez Almeida also said that some mild damage had been identified in a nearby school. Spain’s public broadcaster, TVE, initially said the school was thought to have been empty, but the mayor later said that there were people there but they suffered no more than “scratches.”

Leire Reparaz, an area resident, told The Associated Press that she heard a loud explosion some minutes before 3 p.m. local when she was heading to her home near the Puerta de Toledo, a local landmark.

“We didn’t know where the sound came from. We all thought it was from the school. We went up the stairs to the top of our building and we could see the structure of the building and lots of gray smoke,” the 24-year-old Madrid resident said.

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