KSTP -- Fourteen people have been hospitalized and at least four remain unaccounted for after a building explosion and fire in Minneapolis on New Year's Day.
Fire crews responded to a report of an explosion around 8 a.m. Wednesday on the 500 block of Cedar Avenue and remained on the scene Thursday morning.
Somali leaders confirmed with KSTP the four people missing were not with family or at the hospital.
Hennepin County Medical Center officials said they had three patients in critical condition and six in satisfactory condition Wednesday night. A few of the other victims went to the University of Minnesota Medical Center-Fairview. Robert Ball of Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services says the victims suffered from injuries ranging from burns to trauma associated with falling or jumping from windows.
A witness at the scene tells KSTP he heard an explosion and then saw the fire shortly after. Multiple victims were already outside when crews arrived, and flames were shooting about 20 feet out of the windows on the second and third floor, according to officials at the scene.
The first firefighters who arrived on the scene said it looked like a "war zone."
Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel originally confirmed 13 people have been hospitalized, six with critical injuries. That number is now at 14. He said it was very difficult to fight the blaze because the bitter cold turned the area into an ice rink.
Drivers will be delayed again Thursday with all the ice build-up left over from putting the fire out.
A woman who owns a nearby convenience store tells KSTP the building is a community center that contains apartments, a grocery store and mosque. The first floor is a commercial use area and the second and third floors are apartments.
Somali leaders tell KSTP that mosque is one of the first places in Minnesota where the Somali community worshipped.
"This whole area is very significant to the community," newly-elected Ward 6 Council Member Abdi Warsame said. "It has the mosque, it has a bar as well, as well as the grocery store. But what we are worried about right now are the victims."
Abdikadir Mohamed, whose uncle owns the grocery store, watched the scene in silence, struggling to put his thoughts into words. "This is bad," he said.
Fruetel says there are about 10 apartment units in the building, at least nine of which were occupied at the time. At this point it's unclear if there are any victims still inside the building, Fruetel said.
The Brian Coyle Center was open for family and victims of the fire to reunite. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are assisting victims.
The last inspection of the building was in 2012, and fire officials say there were no outstanding inspection issues for the building.
Officials said it wasn't immediately clear what caused the fire. CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden said there were no natural gas leaks in the area. Fire officials tells KSTP reporter Jay Kolls the FBI and ATF are investigating.
"My heart goes out to the victims and families," Warsame said during the press conference. "It's a tragic event."
Gov. Mark Dayton also made a statement regarding the fire.
"On behalf of all Minnesotans, I extend my deepest sympathies to the victims of today's awful fire in Minneapolis and to their families and friends," he said. "We hope for your swift and complete recoveries. I also want to thank the State Troopers, Minneapolis Police Officers, firefighters, and other first responders who endangered themselves to save the lives of those engulfed by this terrible tragedy."
As usual, we're already seeing the generosity of Minnesotans who are ready to step up to help the victims. A mother and daughter from Mendota Heights came to the Brian Coyle Center with a donation of clothing.
"We heard it was mostly men who were displaced and we had a few extra dollars that we didn't spend at Christmas and we had a lot of extra clothes," Kathleen Stombeck said.
"I think if we were in the same situation we would want people to help out and do the same thing for us," Elizabeth Stombeck said.
The Red Cross is also accepting donations.
"We don't know the reason or extent of the fire, but we know there are families and loved ones who need our prayers because this is obviously a very difficult and tragic event," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said during a press conference. "Firefighters and crews on the scene in this horrible cold deserve a great deal of gratitude for keeping this from being even worse."
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