WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 — At least one person was killed and one remains missing with nine others injured, after a natural gas explosion took down a school building on Wednesday in the midwestern US state of Minnesota, authorities said.
John Fruetel, fire chief of the Minneapolis Fire Department, told press that a body was pulled from the rubble of the collapsed building at Minnehaha Academy’s upper school in Minneapolis Wednesday afternoon.
The chief said fire crew were searching for what was initially reported three missing persons when they found the body.
One of those missing was found earlier outside the building and uninjured, leaving one person still unaccounted for after the confirmed death of who was later identified as a female employee of the private academy.
A search is underway beneath at least two floors of debris in attempt to locate the last missing person, an 81-year-old school janitor.
“We still consider it a rescue at this point,” Fruetel said. “We’re going to do our best to locate everyone that’s unaccounted for.”
A local hospital said nine people were hospitalized, with three in critical condition, four in serious condition and two suffering minor trauma.
Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said the injured were all adults, either school employees or contractors.
Fire officials confirmed the explosion was caused by a gas line ruptured by contractors who were working on the building.
In a statement, the academy said earlier the explosion involved a natural gas leak, but it only affected the upper school. It also has a lower school, many blocks downriver.
Founded in 1913, Minnehaha Academy is a Christian school, which had over 800 students enrolled during the 2015-2016 school year, with the upper school housing grades 9-12.
The 2017-2018 school year is scheduled to begin on Aug. 23, but there were students, teachers and coaches at the school for sport training, summer school and other activities.
A school official said about a dozen students in the school gym were all fine.