An investigation has been launched after a major explosion took place in an Antwerp district as emergency services try to rescue at least two more people from beneath the rubble of three collapsed homes.
After rescuing three persons, emergency response teams are working to release one and still searching for another thought be still trapped under the debris, according to live reports by VRT.
The major blast caused extensive material damage and left area residents and eyewitnesses “shocked,” with one describing seeing “roof tiles flying in the air.”
“I was just going inside when I heard a loud blast,” one local resident told the outlet. “I saw all the roof tiles flying in the air, it was very shocking,” she added.
Another resident said that she had “scrambled out through the window” as she told the outlet that several windows had been shattered and her front door blocked from the impact.
The explosion took place at around noon, with a two victims pulled alive but severely injured from the rubble by 2:00 PM.
Wilrijk werd vanmiddag opgeschrikt door een vreselijke gasontploffing. Onze dank gaat uit naar de hulpdiensten die nu bezig zijn met opvang en een reddingsactie. Een onderzoek zal volgen. Onze gedachten zijn bij de slachtoffers en hun naasten. Antwerpen zal hen alle steun bieden.
Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever said the incident was the result of a “terrible gas explosion” shortly after 2:00 PM. However, electricity and natural gas operator Fluvius said that no works were being carried on the site of the explosion at the time.
The public prosecutor opened a judicial investigation and an investigating judged was dispatched to the site at around 3:00 PM.
Shortly before 4:00 PM, Flanders’ water management Aquafin said it had workers on the site who “had not noticed anything unusual.”
“Just before the workers went on their lunch break, they didn’t notice anything unusual, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone on lunch break,” the company said in a statement to VRT.