A powerful blast ripped through a ten-story building in Argentina's third largest city Tuesday, setting it ablaze and leaving at least one dead and 15 injured.

Firefighters said apparently a furnace in the downtown apartment building in Rosario exploded.

The blast wiped away the front of the building, leaving the insides of people's homes and gutted balconies visible from the street below.

Scenes of panic abounded as sirens wailed and people ran through the streets or gawked at the ruined structure, some of them crying.

Shards of shattered glass littered the streets.

The initial death and injury toll was given by the city's top health official, Leonardo Caruana.

The first known fatality is a 21-year-old woman who lived in the building, a medical source told AFP.

Mayor Monica Fein said 17 ambulances were on the scene to help people burned in the fire, which she said stemmed from a gas leak.

As it was not immediately possible to cut off the gas supply to the building, people within a radius of two kilometers of it were evacuated.

"The shock wave was tremendous," the superintendent of a building 200 meters from the site of the explosion, told the TV station C5N.

The explosion sent flames roaring through the building, as firetruck sirens sounded and traffic clogged Rosario's city center.

Windows shattered in buildings in a radius of several hundred meters from the blast site. The area includes shops, schools and banks.

Rosario is home to 1.1 million people and is located 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of Buenos Aires. It is Argentina's main port for farm exports.

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