Updated: 01/02/2014 12:33 AM
Created: 01/01/2014 8:34 AM KSTP.com
By: Cassie Hart
Fourteen people have been hospitalized and at least four remain unaccounted for after a building explosion and fire in Minneapolis on New Years Day.
Fire crews responded to a report of an explosion around 8 a.m. Wednesday on the 500 block of Cedar Avenue and remained on the scene late Wednesday night.
Somali leaders confirmed with KSTP the four people missing were not with family or at the hospital.
Hennepin County Medical Center said they had three patients in critical condition and six in satisfactory condition Wednesday night. A few of the other victims went to the University of Minnesota Medical Center-Fairview. Robert Ball of Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services says the victims suffered from injuries ranging from burns to trauma associated with falling or jumping from windows.
A witness at the scene tells KSTP he heard an explosion and then saw the fire shortly after. Multiple victims were already outside when crews arrived, and flames were shooting about 20 feet out of the windows on the second and third floor, according to officials at the scene.
Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel originally confirmed 13 people have been hospitalized, six with critical injuries. That number is now at 14. He said it was very difficult to fight the blaze because the bitter cold has turned the area into an ice rink.
A woman who owns a nearby convenience store tells KSTP the building is a community center that contains apartments, a grocery store and mosque. The first floor is a commercial use area and the second and third floors are apartments.
Abdikadir Mohamed, whose uncle owns the grocery store, watched the scene in silence, struggling to put his thoughts into words. "This is bad," he said.
Fruetel says there are about 10 apartment units in the building, at least nine of which were occupied at the time. At this point it’s unclear if there are any victims still inside the building, Fruetel said.
The Brian Coyle Center was open for family and victims of the fire to reunite. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are assisting victims.
The last inspection of the building was in 2012, and fire officials say there were no outstanding inspection issues for the building.
Officials said it wasn't immediately clear what caused the fire. CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden said there were no natural gas leaks in the area. Fire officials tells KSTP reporter Jay Kolls the FBI and ATF are investigating.
“My heart goes out to the victims and families,” newly-elected Ward 6 Council Member Abdi Warsame said during the press conference. “It’s a tragic event.”
Gov. Mark Dayton also made a statement regarding the fire.
"On behalf of all Minnesotans, I extend my deepest sympathies to the victims of today's awful fire in Minneapolis and to their families and friends," he said. "We hope for your swift and complete recoveries. I also want to thank the State Troopers, Minneapolis Police Officers, firefighters, and other first responders who endangered themselves to save the lives of those engulfed by this terrible tragedy."
“We don’t know the reason or extent of the fire, but we know there are families and loved ones who need our prayers because this is obviously a very difficult and tragic event,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said during a press conference. “Firefighters and crews on the scene in this horrible cold deserve a great deal of gratitude for keeping this from being even worse.”
To listen to the audio of the initial response, click here.