Madrid explosion: three dead after huge blast in Spanish capital
Gas leak destroys five floors of city centre building
At least three people were killed on Wednesday when a huge explosion ripped through a building in Madrid, with officials confirming it was caused by a gas leak.
Images from the scene showed the walls on the top four or five storeys of the residential building in the heart of the La Latina neighbourhood were blown out, with debris spread far and wide.
Government representative Jose Manuel Franco told Spain's public television that the blast occurred as a team of workmen were repairing the building's boiler.
Speaking at the scene, Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said a woman, 85, died along with a man whose age was not immediately clear, while the third victim was still "under the rubble".
The blast injured 11 people, one of whom was in serious condition. Church sources told AFP that person was a recently ordained priest.
Despite the force of the blast, no one was hurt in the elderly care home next door, or in an adjacent school where tonnes of rubble fell into a playground while the children were in lessons, city officials said.
Wednesday was the first day that schools reopened after a nine-day closure because of the heaviest snowfall in Madrid in 50 years.
"This could have been a massive tragedy," Mr Martinez-Almeida said.
Along the street, at least 15 cars were badly damaged by the force of the explosion, which gutted most of the six-storey residential building.
"I was just leaving a nearby clinic when I heard a very big explosion. It was so big I thought it was a bomb," salesman Valentin Moreno, 48, told AFP.
"There were people running and a lot of smoke and when I got there, I saw the building's facade had been completely destroyed."
Mr Franco confirmed it was a gas explosion and said there were three dead and one missing, indicating the toll could rise further.
Hundreds of police and rescuers filled the streets around the building, which the archdiocese said housed local priests who worked in the area.
"Please pray there are no victims," tweeted the Virgin de la Paloma parish church, saying "one lay person has not been found".
"These were the living quarters for the local parish priests. They are being treated by the ambulance crews and out of danger."
The head of the elderly care home said there were no injuries among staff or residents.
"There were just over 100 people inside at the time," Antonio Berlanga, director of the four-storey Los Nogales La Paloma residence, told Spanish public TV.
Nine fire crews and 11 ambulances were sent to the scene, which was completely closed off to traffic and pedestrians.
Three hours after the explosion occurred, smoke and flames came from the building as a police helicopter flew overhead.
Aerial footage released by police appeared to show that the top four or five floors had been completely blown out.
The blast also brought down the wall of a building in Puerta de Toledo square, about 50 metres away.
"Unfortunately, we are mourning the death of several people in the explosion on Calle Toledo," tweeted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, offering his condolences to the families of the dead and the injured.
Lola Lopez Bravo, 44, was having lunch with her 6-year-old son in their nearby home when the blast occurred, bringing down the wall in her apartment.
"We were eating, suddenly we heard a noise and the wall in front of us started falling on top of us," she said.
"There was a huge hole in the wall and then the rubble started falling so we ran out of the house and went to a neighbour's place."
Lorenzo Fomento, 43, an Italian salesman who was working from home at a nearby apartment, said the noise was tremendous.
"The noise was very loud, very loud, really," Mr Fomento said. "I never heard something as loud before."
In pictures – explosion rocks Madrid
Updated: January 21, 2021 08:30 AM