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Crews searching Texas hotel for anyone still trapped as investigators probe cause of explosion that hurt at least 21

Investigators are working to determine the cause of an apparent gas explosion at a downtown Fort Worth, Texas, hotel that left at least 21 people hurt while crews comb through the building for anyone still trapped inside, authorities said.

The blast at the Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel Monday sent a thick plume of smoke billowing over downtown highrises and scattered debris on roads as firefighters rushed to tend to the injured and rescue people trapped in a basement.

Fire officials believe the blast was caused by “some type of gas explosion” but are still working with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to verify the cause, Fort Worth Fire Department spokesperson Craig Trojacek said at a Monday news conference.

Trojacek said earlier there were reports the explosion may have happened in a restaurant where some construction was underway, but “we’re not 100% sure that that’s where it actually started.”

There is currently no indication the incident is criminal in nature, a federal law enforcement source told CNN.

The nearly 104-year-old building, which officials say had recently been renovated, is located in the busy downtown area near the Fort Worth Convention Center and City Hall.

“It was chaos,” Trojacek said, describing crews arriving to a burning fire and blown out windows and walls.

One witness reported seeing people coming out of the hotel with bloody faces and seeing people on gurneys following the blast, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Of the 21 injured, one person suffered critical injuries while four others were listed in serious condition, according to a spokesperson for MedStar, which provides emergency medical services and operates ambulances in the area. Others were described as having minor injuries.

Three employees of the Musume restaurant in the Sandman hotel were injured in the explosion. Musume was closed at the time and no customers were dining when the blast happened, the restaurant shared in a Facebook update.

The hotel was open and operating when the explosion rang out, with 26 rooms occupied at the time, according to Trojacek, who noted there was some reconstruction happening at the hotel at the time.

Crews overnight plan to continue going through the hotel, room by room, to make sure no one is still trapped in the building, fire officials said Monday night.

The Sandman hotel said in a statement it was working with first responders and hoping to help those who had been injured.

“Emergency responders are onsite and we are working closely with the authorities to understand the origin of the event and the extent of the harm caused,” the statement reads. “The safety and well-being of our team members and guests is our priority. We are working with those who have been injured to fully support them at this time.”

‘Heartbreaking for downtown Fort Worth’

Workers survey damage near the Sandman Signature hotel following an explosion on Monday.Julio Cortez/AP

In the aftermath of the blast, debris covered the street outside the hotel, where sections of the building’s façade appeared to have been ripped off in the blast.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said the blast was “heartbreaking for downtown Fort Worth.”

“It’s a beautiful building it was just recently renovated and opened and so we’ll work with the ownership of that building as quickly as possible,” Parker said at Monday’s news conference. “Our hearts and prayers are really with the victims at area hospitals.”

The mayor said she wasn’t in the area at the time but surrounding government buildings were evacuated.

City Hall staff heard the blast when it happened and many said it felt like an earthquake, the mayor said.

Across the street from the hotel, Thompson’s Bookstore and Speakeasy was significantly damaged in the blast.

“Everyone in the building at the time is ok, but it will be a while until we understand the full scope of damage,” Clinton Bohn of the AngMar Retail Group told CNN in a statement.

He added the bookstore has significant damage to the side closest to the hotel and within the speakeasy area, which is underground.

The store shared on Facebook that the location will be temporarily closed until further notice. “The safety and well-being of our customers and staff are our top priorities, and we appreciate your understanding during this challenging time,” the Facebook post reads.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a statement said state officials are in contact with Forth Worth authorities and are ready to send additional help if needed.

“The State of Texas is in close contact with Mayor Parker, Sheriff Waybourn, and other local partners and first responders in Fort Worth to assist with emergency response efforts following the tragic explosion at the Sandman Hotel,” the governor said.

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