Investigators survey damage from Indianapolis explosion

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Officials gave the latest update at around 3 p.m. regarding the explosion that happened around 11:10 p.m. Saturday night on the south side of Indianapolis.

The explosion was centered in a home on Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hill subdivision killing two people and sending seven other to local hospitals.

Five homes were destroyed and 26 others suffered major damage. The gas company says the investigation could take weeks and right now the source of the explosion is unknown.

Fire officials say the investigation into what caused a deadly blast on the Indianapolis south side will likely take weeks. Up to 70 firefighters responded Saturday night to what's being described as a "very large-scale incident."

Twenty-seven homes are uninhabitable and eight sustained heavy damage in Saturday night's explosion.

See a slide show of images from the explosion.

Indianapolis Fire Department Chief Kenny Bacon told reporters at a Sunday morning news conference that every home within a two-block radius of the explosion in the Richmond Hills subdivision will be surveyed by structural engineers before any residents are allowed back in. If the engineers deem their homes safe, some families will be allowed to retrieve any items they can carry.

But Chief Bacon says each family will have to be escorted individually into their homes, so the process will take time. About 200 people were affected.

"We had a very large incident. Our suppression efforts went very well. We did at least primary, secondary, tertiary searches of every home in the neighborhood," said IFD Chief Kenny Bacon.

Two people were killed and at least five were injured in the explosion, which occurred around 11:00 PM Saturday night near South Sherman and Stop 11 Road.

Four homes were fully involved in flames, the chief said. Of those, two are partially standing this morning. Power and gas has been shut off and neighbors were evacuated.

The victims have not been identified yet.

"We're gonna respect their privacy and notifications of their family before we put any of that out," said the chief, regarding identification.

Cause still unknown

A natural gas leak is suspected, but investigators have not been able to confirm that. In addition to local police and fire agencies, the ATF and Homeland Security are investigating.

Citizens Gas and fire officials say the investigation will take weeks.

Neighbors reported fleeing their homes after the blast shook the houses to their foundations. Some eyewitnesses reported all the glass in their windows being blown out and family members covered in flying debris. Hours after the explosion occurred just after 11:00 PM Saturday night, flames and smoke were still pouring from the homes.

A press conference was held Sunday morning at Mary Bryan Elementary, where survivors were initially taken after the explosion. IFD, the Red Cross and others gave updates.

Chief Bacon said the call initially came in as a residence fire with entrapment. "Our folks are right around the corner. The first commander on the scene hit a second alarm," the chief explained.

Seven people were transported to local hospitals, several from the scene and some who made it to Mary Bryan Elementary School and then were transported.

Bacon told reporters he initially estimated about 25 homes were affected when he got to the explosion scene last night, but he said he realized he had "underestimated by quite a bit once I saw it in daylight."

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The chief also said there were "quite a few homes" that were some distance away from the point of the blast that sustained damage. All of those homes will be surveyed.

The structural engineers' survey is expected to be complete by Sunday afternoon. Until it was finished, Chief Bacon urged patience.

"There's only one way in and one way out," he said. "I urge people not to be in a big hurry to come back in."

Homes will be categorized as inhabitable, homes with enough damage that they're too dangerous to enter and homes that can be entered to retrieve belongings.

"There are homes that will have to be torn down. There are homes that will be inhabitable within a day," said the chief.

Residents were initially taken to Mary Bryan Elementary School, where doctors and medics checked them out. The uninjured were transferred by IndyGo bus to a nearby church where friends or relatives picked them up.

Meantime, Citizens Gas says it will take "many weeks" to investigate.

Dan Considine with Citizens says the gas company has already investigated the gas mains under the streets of the neighborhood and did not find any leaks in those blocks or adjoining blocks.

He also said there were no reports of any gas smell in the days or hours before the explosion.