BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A natural gas explosion destroyed a tall apartment building in the Argentine city of Rosario on Tuesday, killing at least six people, injuring more than 60 and causing an evacuation of much of the downtown.
Dozens of people were trapped in the upper floors of the burning building as a huge plume of smoke went up over the country's third-largest city. The building's front and back facades were ripped open, exposing the shattered remains of apartments inside.
Firefighters working from above and below pulled people out of windows and off balconies as the bottom floors burned. The explosion damaged other buildings for blocks around, and fearing a collapse, police closed buildings and schools in a five-block radius.
The six people killed in the blast were adults, Santa Fe Provincial Health Minister Miguel Cappiello told Argentina's Todo Noticias channel. He said rescuers were still looking for people in the rubble.
Municipal Health Secretary Leonardo Caruana told Todo Noticias that the injured were being treated in hospitals across the city and that three of them had critical injuries.
Rosario's civil defense director, Raul Rainones, told the local Diarios y Noticias agency that the explosion appeared to have been caused by a gas leak.
The Litoral Gas company cut off gas flow to much of downtown.
The fire took three hours to extinguish and left the building in serious danger of collapse, firefighters said.
Buildings were damaged for several blocks surrounding the blast, which sent bricks and glass and cement crashing onto the street. Eleven schools were evacuated, and several shops and other apartment buildings were damaged.
Security Secretary Sergio Berni offered the services of the border police and coast guard to help local authorities.