One person has died and 25 are injured following an explosion that occurred in downtown Durham at 115 North Duke St. after 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, Wil Glenn, Durham Police Department public affairs manager, said in a video statement.
Glenn said that the gas leak was caused by a contractor that was boring under the sidewalk and hit a two inch gas line. That led to the explosion and a partial building collapse, according to Glenn, and a firefighter was injured. Later in the afternoon, Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson said that “until the investigation is complete, we don’t know that’s the source of the the gas leak,” according to the News and Observer.
Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the first responders started evacuating the buildings when they responded to the gas leak around 9:30 a.m. and that the explosion, which occurred after 10 a.m., "involved approximately five buildings." A fire began as a result of the blast. A firefighter was seriously injured but Zoldos said his injuries are not life-threatening.
A preliminary statement from the scene said the explosion was at 10:27 a.m., but Zoldos said at the afternoon press conference that it occurred at 10:07 a.m.
According to a release, several Duke employees have been injured from shattered glass, and they are being "treated or transported for care." Duke's buildings in the area were evacuated and Duke Energy will test its power grid, which will reportedly cause power outages.
The explosion does not appear to be at a Duke building, according to officials cited in a news release. Emergency crews are responding to the scene and the road along Duke Street from Chapel Hill Road to Morgan Street is closed.
The Durham Fire Department, the Durham Police Department and PSNC Energy officials are also at the scene to respond to the explosion, according to a tweet from the City of Durham.
Duke Hospital is preparing to care for individuals injured by the explosion.
According to a tweet from Working@Duke, the University is relocating more than 500 employees who work downtown.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Glenn said that it is an "ongoing investigation."
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
"This is the kind of day you never prepare for as a mayor," Mayor Steve Schewel said at the press conference. "It's not something that you ever necessarily think that you're going to have to face."
Schewel said "we've had a terrible tragedy today," adding that there are people in intensive care. But he noted that he has gratitude to the first responders, and pointed out that today is Durham's 150th birthday Wednesday.
Editor’s note: This article was last updated at 11:45 a.m. Thursday to include additional information.