An explosion and fire tore through a three-story apartment complex Tuesday morning and part of it collapsed, authorities said. Rescuers were searching for one person who lived in the building and could not be located. The blast, touched off by construction workers who hit a gas line, injured six people, said police Capt. Rick McGarril.
County Sheriff Leo P. McGuire told MSNBC news network that most of the building's 30 families were able to get out. He said authorities were trying to determine whether the one missing person was in the building at the time of the explosion.
"Thirty families are going to be homeless throughout the holiday period," McGuire said. The explosion happened at about 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT). McGarril said utility workers trying to remove an underground oil tank just outside the building touched off the explosion when the pit they had dug collapsed and pinched a gas line. Jason Ariano was at work in a building around the corner when he heard a loud noise and felt the walls reverberate. "I thought something hit the roof of my building," Ariano said. "The whole place shook. We walked outside and there was fire everywhere."
The explosion sent up plumes of smoke that could been see more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) away. Firefighters, who were battling the blaze in subfreezing temperatures, evacuated several homes near the fire in case it spread. Bergenfield, with a population of 26,000, is located 6 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of New York City, reports the AP. N.U.