Disastrous explosion in a Chicago building

Eight people were rushed to hospitals after they were injured when an explosion ripped through the top floor of a Chicago apartment building on Tuesday, authorities said.

The explosion at the four-story, 36-unit apartment building in the South Austin neighborhood happened around 9 a.m., authorities said. Chicago Fire Department Deputy Chief Marc Ferman told reporters a few hours later that the department had finished looking for possible victims and was “confident” no one remained trapped inside the building, whose top floor had collapsed.

He said technical crews had shored up the upper floors to allow firefighters to search “to make sure we didn’t leave victims under the rubble.”

The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined.

Seven of the injured were in the building on the city’s West Side when the blast occurred and one was apparently in a building across the street, Ferman said. Three of the people who were injured had serious or critical injuries, the department said.

Photos and videos posted on the Chicago Fire Department’s Twitter page showed much of the top floor was destroyed. Dozens of bricks and other debris had fallen onto the road, crushing at least one car and seriously damaging two others.

Several residents said they were at home when the explosion rocked the building.

“I was asleep, and all of a sudden there was a loud bang,” Lawrence Lewis, who was asleep at the time, told WGN television. “I woke up and my windows were gone, my front door was flung open. I just saw smoke, and I ran out of the house. He was asleep. I’m in shock right now.”

Otis Maning, who lives across the street, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was on his couch watching TV when “all of a sudden I heard, ‘Boom!'”

“My heart almost shot out of my body. … I saw broken windows, I saw debris,” she added.

The Chicago police bomb squad and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also responded to the blast.