Nearly two dozen people were rescued on Wednesday morning after an explosion in an office building in downtown Baltimore caused part of the structure’s roof to collapse, the authorities said.
Firefighters and ambulances responded to the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company building on Center Street after the explosion was reported sometime after 8 a.m. Twenty-one people were taken to hospitals, the Baltimore City Fire Department said.
The department said earlier on Wednesday that nine people were in critical condition and one was in serious condition. Two people were pulled to safety from a window-washing platform that dangled precariously against the building’s facade after the explosion, the authorities said.
“Right now we need people to pray for those people that were inside of this building and praying that they all have a speedy and full recovery,” Mayor Brandon M. Scott of Baltimore told reporters at the scene.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which took place on the 16th floor of the 21-story building, a Baltimore firefighters’ union said. The Baltimore field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter that its special agents were at the scene assisting city police and fire officials.
In a statement, B.G.E. said it was “a construction-related incident.” Construction work was being done on the building’s air-handling and boiler system, “which likely caused” the explosion, the company said. The company added later on Wednesday morning that the building’s gas service had been shut off while the work was being done.
“The building was largely empty due to the upcoming holidays and the pandemic,” B.G.E. said.
Two workers were rescued after they were trapped on a window-cleaning platform, the fire union said. Video from a local TV station showed the platform dangling at an angle as firefighters broke windows to the reach the workers.
One worker was pulled through a 10th-floor window. A firefighter climbed up the platform and pulled the second worker through a window on the 11th floor, Chief Niles R. Ford of the Baltimore City Fire Department told reporters at the scene. He said those workers were “in pretty decent condition.”
“The building has been affected from the 10th floor to the roof and there were several contractors working in the building,” he said.
City officials closed streets in the area and urged drivers to take alternate routes.