Explosion Rips Through Florida Apartment Building

An explosion and fire tore apart a large section of a three-story apartment building Thursday, blowing out windows, partially collapsing the roof and injuring at least 10 people.

Firefighters, who had mostly extinguished the blaze, went through the building's charred rubble, picking up burnt wood and debris, but they did not find any bodies in an initial search, said Gary Fernaays, a spokesman for Deerfield Beach Fire Rescue.

At least four apartment residents were taken to hospitals for evaluation and treatment of minor injuries, Fernaays said. Six others were treated on the scene, including two firefighters. Authorities said the injuries appeared to be minor.

Up to 150 residents were in the building when an explosion sparked the fire at about 5:30 a.m., Fernaays said. The cause was not immediately clear. There are propane tanks in the building and a natural gas line runs under a nearby road, Fernaays said.

Dorothy Williams, 45, said she had been dozing off to sleep when her husband came in and said, "Get up there's been an explosion in here!"

"Once he said that, the windows started popping. There was glass everywhere. The TV started flying across the room," she said, standing across the street after escaping with her husband and two pet birds.

Water poured out of parts of the building as crews tried to tamp down a few hot spots that were smoking, while other firefighters surveyed the damage from an engine ladder.

Stores and residences around the structure were evacuated as authorities continued to be concerned about a potential collapse. Nearly half the building's roof had collapsed, Fernaays said. Several interior walls fell down and windows were blown out. Glass and debris covered cars in a parking lot surrounding the building.

It remained unclear when, or if, residents would be allowed to return.

"The third floor is uninhabitable. We're questioning whether the second floor is," Fernaays said.

Another resident, Frances Boucharune, 9, said she had been sleeping when her mother woke her up to alert her to the fire.

"The roof came down and fell on my mom. She had glass all over her arm," the girl said. Her mother had dried blood caked on her left arm.

Deerfield Beach is a city just north of Fort Lauderdale.

The building is among a handful of similar apartment complexes packed closely together with a strip mall, restaurant and car dealership less than a 100 yards from a highway.