EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — An explosion rocked an Evansville, Indiana, neighborhood Wednesday, killing three people and damaging nearly 40 homes.
Evansville Fire Chief Mike Connelly said units were dispatched at 12:59 p.m, and quickly arrived on scene just three minutes later.
Chief Connelly said crews conducted searches of houses around the explosion and many of them were empty aside from pets. He said the department has not confirmed how many of the houses were occupied when the explosion happened because “some were too unstable to enter.”
The fire department believed there could be other victims that are unaccounted for as of Wednesday evening.
In addition to the three people who lost their lives, at least one other person was being treated in the hospital.
Evansville Police Department Sgt. Anna Gray said the entire area surrounding the 1000 block of N. Weinbach Avenue was shut down Wednesday afternoon. All fires had been put out.
In total, 39 homes were damaged by the blast, a fire department spokesperson said. Eleven of those homes have been found to be uninhabitable.
Officials said the cause of the explosion is unknown, and an investigation was ongoing. Police were asking people to avoid the area as the investigation continued.
CenterPoint Energy, the local gas utility, was last called to the home in January 2018, Connelly said. CenterPoint issued a statement saying it “worked with first responders to secure the area.”
“CenterPoint Energy is working closely with the Evansville Fire Department, State Fire Marshal and other agencies as the investigation of this incident continues,” the utility said.
It was the second house explosion in the area in just over five years. A house explosion on June 27, 2017, killed two people and injured three others.
Wednesday’s explosion also brought to mind a massive blast in 2012 that destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes on Indianapolis’ south side and killed two people. A man was convicted of tampering with a natural gas line at his then-girlfriend’s home in an attempt to commit insurance fraud, with the explosion killing two next-door neighbors. That man, his half-brother and girlfriend all received long prison sentences.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.