Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information from the Baltimore City Fire Department.
Firefighters combing through the debris at the site of a major gas explosion that destroyed three Baltimore row houses Monday found a man’s body overnight, bringing the death toll from the deadly blast to two, city officials said Tuesday.
The man’s body was found just before 1 a.m., Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Adams said during a Tuesday morning news conference.
A woman was pronounced dead at the scene Monday. Neither of the victims have been identified.
Seven people were seriously injured in the explosion. Of those, five are still in critical condition, Adams said.
“We haven’t heard any reports of any one still missing,” she told reporters. “Right now we’re just making sure that the community continues to remain safe and we’re praying for those who are still in the hospital at this time.”
Adams said the fire department’s efforts have now shifted from a search and rescue mission to a recovery and cleanup.
About 30 residents were displaced by the blast and offered temporary shelter and nearly 200 homes were said to be damaged, according to the fire department.
Later Tuesday afternoon, Baltimore Gas and Electric, provided the first indication of a possible cause for the explosion that tore through the row house community in the neighborhood of Reistertown Station shortly before 10 a.m. Monday.
The gas utility said in a statement it had turned over data on gas and electricity usage to the Baltimore City Fire Department and other investigators. The data “is indicative of some type of issue beyond the BGE meter on customer-owned equipment,” the statement said.
In an earlier update, BG&E said crews worked after the blast to inspect the gas main on Labyrinth Road and canvass all surrounding buildings and said there were no gas readings or leaks were found in any of the buildings.
In addition, BGE said no gas odors were reported before the explosion and it did not receive any recent calls about gas odors near where the explosion happened.
The neighborhood’s gas infrastructure dates to the early 1960s. BGE said the most recent inspection took place in June and July of 2019 and did not turn up any leaks.
‘This is stuff you … see in a movie’
At the news conference earlier Tuesday, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young thanked members of the community and leaders for coming together to help in the rescue effort.
“I don’t know how to describe it because it’s something that I’ve never ever witnessed in my lifetime,” Young said of the scene of devastation.
Janice Rochester, who has lived on the block for 25 years, told WTOP she stayed up all night watching the rescue crews at work. “I’m grateful for these people that are out here working and doing their job,” she said. “I’m really grateful for that.”
She said she’s also grateful her own home was spared — and “a little afraid,” since the blast seemed to come without warning.
“People don’t have homes to go to. It’s just devastating,” she said. “This is stuff you would think you would see in a movie, not where you live.”
A neighbor’s front-porch security camera captured the explosion.
#breaking We’ve just learned @BaltimoreFire pulled a second body from the rubble. 5 of the 7 survivors rescued are now in critical condition. No update on the other two. The result of this apparent gas explosion—captured by a neighbor’s doorbell camera via @wjz and @AvajoyeWJZ pic.twitter.com/KRsO4OWbRe
— Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) August 11, 2020
Three row houses were leveled in the explosion, and another was left standing but severely damaged. Neighbors reported the blast shattered windows and tore the doors off hinges.
Michelle Adams, who lives nearby, said she heard a “big boom, like a bomb,” Monday morning. She said she rushed to the scene, along with several other neighbors. Even before firefighters arrived, people from the neighborhood got to work, she said.
“The gas was still on, and the electrical wires were still hot. And they ran up there and they were digging and digging,” she said.
Kevin Matthews, who lives on the block, told The Baltimore Sun that he could hear trapped children shouting from the rubble: “Come get us! We’re stuck!”
Later in the day, firefighters pulled an older woman from the rubble and she was well enough to walk. Neighbors watching the rescue cheered and applauded.
“We hear a lot about Baltimore and about the negative of Baltimore. But in this — a tragedy like we had here yesterday — you saw the true spirit of Baltimore,” Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott said at the Tuesday news conference. “You had Baltimoreans rushing to try to save their neighbors.”
There’s no timeline for when displaced residents can return to their homes, but officials said residents might be able to briefly return Tuesday to retrieve some items.
“We want to make sure that that every home is structurally safe, and that the power can be restored and everything is safe before the residents return,” said Michelle Smith, the preparedness section chief, with the Baltimore City Office of Emergency Management.
WTOP’s Melissa Howell and Michelle Basch contributed to this report from Baltimore. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.