CHICAGO — At least eight people were injured when a four-story building partially collapsed due to an explosion on the city’s West Side Tuesday morning, according to authorities.
The collapse occurred around 9 a.m. at a multiunit apartment building at 5601 W. West End Avenue in the city’s Austin neighborhood. The building next door was evacuated, according to the Chicago Fire Department. Level 1 Hazmat was sent to the scene, as was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Chicago Police Department bomb unit.
The rush hour morning explosion destroyed nearly every window in the building and showered the street below with bricks and dust, destroying at least a couple of parked cars. Immediately afterward, Chicago Public Schools instituted “soft” school lockdowns in place at several nearby schools, including Austin College and Career Academy High School, Catalyst Elementary Charter School - Circle Rock, Edward K Ellington Elementary School and KIPP Academy Chicago, according to CPS.
At least 10 ambulances were dispatched to the scene, with six transports. The total number of injuries was not immediately clear, but according to fire officials, eight people were taken to area hospitals:
—Two men were taken to Loyola University Medical Center, one in serious to critical condition and one in fair condition;
—A man and a woman were taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in fair condition;
—A woman was taken to West Suburban Medical Center in fair condition;
—One man was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in serious to critical condition; and
—Two men were taken to Stroger Hospital in serious to critical condition.
Urban Alternatives, a property management company that manages the 35-unit West End Avenue property released a statement Tuesday morning confirming the explosion.
“This is a devastating event and we are heartbroken for all of our residents,” said a statement attributed to Roman Viere, the building’s owner.
“Our first concern is the health, well-being and safety of our residents. We are doing everything we can to cooperate with emergency services, and we are ready to do whatever we can to support our residents.”
It was unclear exactly how many people were inside the building at the time of the explosion. The building’s owner said 31 of the building’s 35 units were occupied. The Red Cross of Greater Chicago said they would open a temporary shelter for those displaced by the explosion.
The Red Cross will provide food, water, comfort, a safe place to sleep and we will connect people with additional resources as we navigate through this situation with the community and people affected.
Fire officials said the cause of the massive explosion remained unknown as investigators continued working at the scene. Fire crews conducted searches of the shattered building for survivors.
In a statement, Peoples Gas said gas crews went to the scene of the explosion as part of standard procedure in case emergency responders need their assistance.
“The cause of the incident is unknown, but there is no reason at this point to believe the cause is related to our gas service or equipment,” according to the statement.
A spokesman with the city’s Department of Buildings said it was still too soon to say whether the damaged structure could be salvaged, adding that building inspectors remained at the scene Tuesday afternoon.
The buildings department said its most recent case involving the building’s owners involved code violations dating back to February 2020, but added that all “significant” violations had been corrected and that there were no pending enforcement cases against the owner.
Myk Snider, a spokesman for, Viere, the building’s owner, said the city is “demolishing some of the roof structure” and assessing the situation. “The ultimate decision on salvaging or razing the building will probably be made by the insurance company.”
“One way or another the building can be replaced,” Viere said through Snider’s statement. “But my priority is helping the people who depend on us for housing know that they have a place to stay.”
(Chicago Tribune reporters Adriana Pérez and Tracy Swartz contributed.)