A house in a Maryland suburb of the nation's capital was leveled early Friday by a thunderous explosion heard for miles around, a blast so powerful it shattered windows and caused other damage to several neighboring homes, authorities said.
The explosion rocked the sleepy Washington, D.C., bedroom community of Rockville at around 1 a.m. and scattered debris widely, a fire official said, adding the cause wasn't immediately known.
Authorities said they had no reports of any injuries but neighbors said a man lived in the home and investigators didn't know his immediate status or if the house was occupied at the time. Investigators and search and rescue dogs were on the scene at daybreak.
"It's just a pile of debris; it's just a pile of bricks. There's not anything left of the house," said Pete Piringer, chief spokesman for Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service. "I've heard there were calls from miles away, people calling."
The powerful jolt shook neighbors from their sleep, including Luzia Ricci.
"I could feel it underground," she said of the explosion in the neighborhood of modest, mostly one-story single family homes. "I was wondering, 'Are we having an earthquake?' But it was so short."
She went outside to see what was going on and could see the flames from her backyard. She started to go closer with her daughter, but then she heard another pop and backed away.
"My husband is crazy enough to go all the way," she said, adding he captured video of the fire.
From the scene, Piringer described the home damage as "catastrophic" and added that about a dozen other houses, mostly built of brick, were damaged by a "large debris field" kicked up by the blast.
"There is collateral damage to several nearby homes," he said.
About 75 firefighters needed only about 20 minutes to put out a fire in the rubble. They were summoned by several frantic 911 calls, according to Piringer.
"The status of the occupant is unknown," he said, adding authorities had no further information. But he said investigators would be exhaustively checking the rubble during the day as they try to pinpoint what had happened.
Piringer said there were no reports of any gas leaks before the blast but he said a gas explosion was one possibility that hadn't been ruled out initially. He said authorities had no additional information so early into the investigation.
As a precaution, utility workers turned off gas and power at the home and others nearby. Fire and utility officials also went door to door asking neighbors to leave for their safety, displacing a number of area residents. Yellow police tape cordoned off the site.
The neighborhood has seen a house leveled by an explosion in recent memory. In May 2011 an explosion destroyed a home on the same street, killing two people, after a resident disconnected a clothes drier's gas service without capping the line, Piringer said.