Authorities Respond To Massive Explosion In Downtown Madrid

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A massive explosion killed two people and left multiple wounded in central Madrid on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

Officials believe the explosion was caused by a gas leak, Mayor José Luis Martínez Almeida said, according to the AP. Videos and photos posted on social media depicted debris scattered across the nearby Toledo Street close to Madrid’s center. Smoke could be seen billowing from the six-story building.

Martínez Almeida confirmed the deaths and injuries to reporters while he was on the scene and said a first assessment pointed to a gas leak, according to the AP. The mayor said rescuers and firefighters are experiencing increased difficulty in looking for more potential survivors due to a fire that began in the building.

Leire Reparaz, 24, told AP that she had heard a deafening explosion around 3 p.m. local time as she was heading to her house close to the Puerto de Toledo, according to the AP.

“We didn’t know where the sound came from. We all thought it was from the school. We went up the stairs to the top of our building and we could see the structure of the building and lots of grey smoke,” Reparaz said, according to the AP.(RELATED: More Than 700 People Died Overnight In Spain From Coronavirus)

TVE, the country’s public broadcaster, said a nearby school that was damaged in the explosion was empty. The mayor afterwards said people were inside, but sustained only “scratches,” according to the AP.

The destroyed building reportedly belonged to the Catholic Church, and a church official said a volunteer for the parish is missing, Reuters reported. A neighbor reportedly informed Reuters the building was a religious complex specializing in distributing meals to homeless people and residential training for priests.

A Reuters reporter witnessed smoke billowing out of the building that had collapsed and saw rescue workers evacuating elderly nursing home residents close to the building.

Martínez Almeida said nursing home residents had been evacuated and there weren’t any initial reported injuries, the AP reported. Residents were being escorted to a hotel nearby.

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