Thirty-five people were confirmed injured and hundreds were evacuated after an explosion caused by gas leaks rocked the area around Prague’s National Theater.
At least two of the injuries were serious after the explosion on Divadelni Street a few minutes before 10 a.m. in the Czech capital. Some 230 people were evacuated from the area as rescuers with sniffer dogs searched for people possibly trapped under debris in the partially collapsed building, Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said today.
“According to all available information it was a gas explosion, it wasn’t a terrorist attack,” Svoboda said at a news conference. “It was a very powerful explosion that left 35 people injured but there were no fatalities reported.”
The explosion was heard as far as away as the U.S. Embassy on the other side of Vltava River in Mala Strana, or the Lesser Quarter, beneath Prague Castle, according to the state-run CT24. It shattered windows in nearby buildings such as the National Theater and forced evacuation of 19 buildings in the area that includes the famous Cafe Slavia and the library of the Academy of Sciences.
Concern over possible further gas leaks prompted police to shut down some areas of the Smetana embankment that had been re-opened to the public, police chief Martin Vondrasek said at a news conference.
People with blood on their faces were seen treated on sidewalks by paramedics. As many as 55 people may have been injured in the blast, Pavlina Adamcova, spokeswoman for the Prague fire department, said by phone earlier today.
Michal Stefula, a security guard, said he smelled gas and saw glass flying after witnessing the blast from about 50 meters (55 yards) away.
“I was one of the first three people on the site to help about seven injured people out of the building, including one construction worker who told me more of his colleagues were trapped in the basement,” he said in an interview at the area.