At least eight people have been hospitalized after an explosion Tuesday morning in an Austin apartment building, the Chicago Fire Department said. The department said three people were in serious to critical condition, but no fatalities have been reported.
The explosion happened at about 9 a.m., inside a 35-unit apartment building at 5601 W. West End Ave. The explosion collapsed part of the building’s roof and broke windows. A car near the building was also crushed by falling bricks and debris.
Block Club Chicago reported that the “wood from the explosion event pierced a building across the street.” The building is owned by West End LLC, Block Club reported.
Marc Ferman, the deputy fire commissioner, told reporters that 135 first responders came to the scene and “injuries ranged from burns to trauma,” Block Club reported. Ferman said the building is “structurally not sound.” It isn’t clear how many residents were displaced by the explosion.
“I was standing on West End and heard a big boom and then everything started tumbling down,” said Austin resident April Johnson, a few hours after the explosion happened. “They’re still looking for people under debris.”
Shante Walker lives across the street from the apartment building.
“I was in my bed, and it shook my building across the street,” she said. “That’s how loud it was. I saw firefighters bring out one person who was wrapped in a blanket.”
One witness said she saw a person who had been burned being brought out of the building within a minute after it collapsed.
“The guy was burnt real bad,” the witness said.
The Chicago Fire Department said it has not determined the cause of the explosion. The department’s bomb unit and officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on the scene.
Block Club reported that the “building has failed 12 Department of Buildings inspections since February 2010, city records show. The most recent failed inspection, from 2020, says there were six building code violations, including for the inspector not being able to get entry into most of the apartments or being able to verify there were detectors.”
Roman Viere, the building’s owner, told Block Club that the explosion “is a devastating event and we are heartbroken for all of our residents. … Our first concern is the health, well-being and safety of our residents.”
More as this story develops. Visit Block Club Chicago here for updates.