The smell of burned lumber still hung in the air Tuesday afternoon near the Gate City apartment building destroyed by a predawn explosion. Alagasco workers were busy on the scene, as were Birmingham Police and Birmingham Fire and Rescue personnel, city officials, and en route were investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates gas pipeline explosions.
It was a gas line that apparently exploded sometime after 3 a.m. which demolished the apartment building a few yards off Georgia Road on Joppa Avenue in the east Birmingham community. One woman was found dead at the scene, and five children and two adults were reported taken to the hospital.
A city official who said he had arrived on the scene in the early morning hours described seeing a plume of flame erupting from the top of the structure. In the afternoon, Gate City residents and news crews watched officials and utility workers dealing with the aftermath.
The local American Red Cross chapter announced it will provide assistance to families affected by the Gate City explosion.
“Volunteers are using two mobile feeding units to provide water, snacks and meals to the residents and first responders,” according to a Red Cross press release on the day of the explosion.
Red Cross said that residents affected by the explosion could go to the Gate City Community Recreation Center not far from the blast site, and that the Red Cross would provide emergency assistance as needed, including food, clothing, shelter, emotional support and referrals for additional help.
Residents of Gate City reportedly noticed the smell of gas for some time prior to the the explosion. As of late yesterday, Alagasco had released this statement: “Natural gas service has been restored to all but about 12 units in the adjacent buildings. We are increasing our customer service team on the ground to assist the Birmingham Housing Authority and the American Red Cross with getting residents either back in their homes or in alternative lodging. We continue to work with state and federal officials on their investigation.”
Anyone interested in making a donation to the Red Cross can visit redcross.org/Alabama.