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Massive Blast At Maryland Apartment Complex Kills At Least 2, Injures Dozens

At least two people were killed and dozens injured after a massive explosion and fire overnight gutted a Maryland apartment building. Firefighters reported dramatic scenes of children being tossed to safety from windows.

Thirty one residents and three firefighters were rushed to emergency rooms with non-life threatening injuries, Montgomery County Police Assistant Chief Russ Hamill told reporters Thursday afternoon. "Subsequent investigation of the premises has resulted in the identification of two decedents, located within the ruins of the building," he said, adding that the two have not yet been identified.

When asked about the five to seven people who were reported unaccounted for earlier in the day, local authorities told reporters that they were "still working on that at this time."

More than 90 people were displaced by the blast, according to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

"People were dropping children and jumping out of other windows," Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein told The Washington Post at the scene. "Everybody was getting out of the building as rapidly as possible."

More than 160 firefighters and emergency medical personnel responded to the incident. It was reported just after midnight at the Flower Branch Apartments, a four-level apartment building in Silver Spring, Garcia said. Silver Spring is located just north of Washington, D.C.

A video posted by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer showed debris from the blast scattered through the street in front of the damaged building, with items of clothing visible high in the branches of a tree.

Investigators were working to determine what caused the explosion, which "could be felt a mile away," according to the Post.

Goldstein told reporters that the injuries "ranged from minor to serious," the Post reported. He added that "some had respiratory injuries from smoke, and others had burns and fractures from jumping out of windows."

Resident Willie Morales told the newspaper that he was walking across the street when the blast struck. "It was one big boom, like nothing I'd ever heard," he said. "I tried to knock on the door and windows. ... I've never seen a fire like this in my life."

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.