Belgium apartment building collapses after blast - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Belgium apartment building collapses after blast

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Firemen try to extinguish a fire in a collapsed building in Liege, Belgium, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert) Firemen try to extinguish a fire in a collapsed building in Liege, Belgium, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
A five-story apartment building collapsed following an explosion early Wednesday that injured at least 20 people, two of them critically, officials said. (AP Photo/Alain Sprimont) A five-story apartment building collapsed following an explosion early Wednesday that injured at least 20 people, two of them critically, officials said. (AP Photo/Alain Sprimont)

LIEGE, Belgium (AP) — A five-story apartment building caught fire and collapsed Wednesday after an apparent gas explosion, injuring at least 21 people, including a teenager who was pulled from the rubble, officials said.

The blast occurred at about 2 a.m. (0100 GMT) and as darkness fell Wednesday night firefighters were still digging through the rubble looking for other survivors since two separate voices had been heard from within the wreckage, officials said.

Smoke and small fires were making the search difficult, especially for the sniffer dogs being used. Bricks and twisted metal remained piled piled yards (meters) high.

Belgian King Albert II visited the site to show his support for the rescue workers and his sympathy for the victims, including the teenage girl who had been rescued from the wreckage.

"It is likely there was a gas explosion," Liege Mayor Willy Demeyer said. There had been a gas alert in the building over the weekend, but no leak was discovered, he said.

Immediately after the blast, a fire raged through the building and thick smoke billowed into the air. The blast shattered windows in nearby City Hall and spread debris and dust throughout the adjacent streets in downtown Liege.

"It was such a noise that we thought the explosion happened inside City Hall, even though the actual explosion was more than one hundred meters (yards) away, so the whole neighborhood was woken up and devastated," said Demeyer. Most of the historic center of the city was closed because of the explosion.

The 21 people reported injured were more than the dozen residents who officially lived in the building. But the apartments often house university students who may have had guests sleeping over when the blast occurred.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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