Investigators are trying to puzzle out what caused an explosion and fire that killed two people and tore through a residential area of Indianapolis, displacing scores of residents, authorities said today.
The damage is estimated at $3.6 million, with two homes leveled, five homes expected to be demolished and 26 more unlivable, said Adam Collins, deputy director of code enforcment for Indianapolis.
The two deceased are adults, according to fire officials.
David Edds, the superintendent of the Greenwood Community School Corporation, said a second-grade teacher at Southwest Elementary School, lived in one of the homes leveled by the blast, and he thinks she may have died. The school district, on the border of Indianapolis, will delay the start of classes for two hours Monday so that counselors could be called to the school if the death is confirmed. The teacher was married but had no children, Edds said.
Authorities have not released the names of the two people killed.
"There's a significant number of homes that have sustained damage, including two that have been completely destroyed. No cause has been ruled out," said Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.
"The investigation is ongoing," he said. He added that seven people had been injured in the explosion, which left a large debris field. The origin of the blast was near 8415 Fieldfare Way, in the south part of Indianapolis, according to an Indianapolis Fire Department release.
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., who represents the area, said he went to the church where the new donation headquarters is and area Homeland Security officials told him a bomb and a meth lab have been ruled out as causes.
The two homes exploded just after 11 p.m. Saturday, sparking fires in two others and damaging at least two dozen homes on the south side of Indianapolis, said Lt. Bonnie Hensley, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Fire Department.
City officials inspected more than 120 homes, with 80 of them affected to one degree or another, and 31 of those with major damage, said Collins, the code enforcement official. Of those, five will have to be demolished and 26 cannot be lived in for an indefinite period, Collins said.
"It looks like a war zone here right now," Hensley said.
Police have so far been unable to identify the two adults who died, a spokesman said this afternoon.
Jan Able, who lives nearby, said she believes the victims, a couple, lived in the home next door to where the blast occurred.
A woman in her 40s and her 12 -year-old daughter who live in the home where the blast originated were in Ohio at the time, said Able.
Able's daughter and son-in-law live a few streets from Able, so she and her husband are staying with them.
Able said it’s a "very good neighborhood" full of professionals, including doctors, architects, nurses.
The blast originated near 8415 Fieldfare Way, according to the fire department release.
From his bedroom a block away, 47-year-old software engineer Chris Patterson felt the walls of his home shake. The force of the explosion shattered a glass sliding door in his home, he said.
Patterson said despite the grim situation, his spirit was bolstered by the efforts of his neighbors and first responders and has no plans to move away.
“I am freaked out, definitely, but I don’t think we want to move. We really like this neighborhood. I went to church this morning and I feel blessed because of how fast emergency people responded and the way our whole neighborhood pulled together,’’ Patterson said.