Early this morning, an explosion in Baltimore leveled multiple homes and fatally injured at least one woman. Four others are in critical condition, and one person remains trapped in the rubble as of this writing. Reporters say that there are multiple injured, most of them senior citizens. Initial reports say that the explosion was caused by gas.
Fire department officials arrived at the scene just before 10 am. Because one person is trapped, heavy machinery has been barred from moving the debris. Rescue workers are removing rubble by hand. The ages of the victims were not revealed, but neighbors said they heard children’s voices calling for help in the rubble after the explosion.
Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) said the following in a statement: "We are on the scene and working closely with the fire department to make the situation safe. Crews are working to turn off gas to the buildings in the immediate area. Once the gas is off we can begin to safely assess the situation including inspections of BGE equipment." Baltimore Police asked that people avoid the area, as there was still an active gas leak.
Residents felt the power of the blast from several miles away, with some neighbors’ windows and doors blown off.
“It knocked me across the bed,” 77-year-old Moses Glover said. “I came downstairs and saw all of the front of the houses across the street, they were on the ground. I had a picture window downstairs, the glass is in the chair now.”
A History of Poor Gas Lines & Concerns About Maintenance
Less than a year ago, The Baltimore Sun reported on the poor condition of gas lines in the city. For years, the condition of the city’s aging natural gas pipes have led to increased gas leaks. BGE reported that, on average, they discover nearly two dozen gas leaks every day. From 2009 to 2016, gas leaks increased by 75% due to a spike in pipe joint failure. These pipe joints are between 50 and 70 years old.
BGE estimates that they’ll need to replace thousands of miles of pipes that are likely to already be leaking, which will take them at least 20 years. Meanwhile, half of Maryland homes are heated by natural gas, and the number of people who rely on gas for electricity or cooking has only grown.
Many of the leaking pipes are located in residential neighborhoods, putting the lives of thousands at risk. Federal pipeline regulators consider many of these leaks to be “hazardous.”
Critics of BGE accuse the utility company of keeping old pipes in place for profit. “A company has a system designed for 50 years,” says Aaron McCrady, a resident who’s had gas problems in his crawl space for years. “The longer they can stretch it, the more money they make.” McCrady believes the problem is that BGE is under enough pressure to replace older pipes.
Our hearts go out to those who were affected by the explosion this morning, especially the families of those injured or harmed. Our firm will continue to monitor the situation as it develops.