Baltimore office explosion injures 21, many critically, prompting dramatic rescue of workers stranded on high-rise (VIDEOS)

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An explosion in an office building in Baltimore, Maryland has wounded at least 21 people, nine of them critically – also trapping a work crew on scaffolding hanging from the high-rise, triggering a perilous rescue effort.

The blast rocked the offices of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) on Wednesday morning, a 21-storey high-rise in the city’s downtown area. At least nine of the 21 victims brought to the hospital for treatment were in critical condition, according to the Baltimore Fire Department.

The fire department also noted the explosion caused a “partial roof collapse.” The extent of the damage was seen in footage captured from the air by a news crew.

The explosion also left two workers stranded on scaffolding dangling precariously off the side of the high-rise, prompting a daring rescue by firefighters. With both workers still tethered to the building by wires, one was brought to safety through the 10th floor window, while rescuers had to climb up the scaffolding to cut through the 11th floor window to retrieve the second. Both were in “pretty decent condition” after the incident, according to Baltimore fire chief Niles Ford.

While the fire department said the cause of the blast is still under investigation, utility spokeswoman Stephanie Anne Weaver suggested that work on the office building’s “air handling and boiler system” was likely behind the blast, adding that the office was largely empty at the time of the incident due to the holidays and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The city’s firefighter’s union also noted there was evidence the explosion hit the 16th floor of the building, though did not elaborate.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott addressed the blast in a statement on Wednesday afternoon, hailing the “swift action” of the fire department and first responders. At the time, he said no deaths had been reported.

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