SILVER SPRING, Md. - A fifth body was recovered after an explosion and fire at an apartment complex in Maryland, authorities said Sunday evening as firefighters continued amid sweltering heat to comb through the rubble to search for several others who remain missing.
Eight people remain unaccounted for, including two children, the Montgomery County Police Department said. Police say they believe the first four bodies that have been found among the eight unaccounted-for people.
Rescue crews found the fifth deceased victim within the apartment building Sunday, police said. This comes two days after the bodies of three others were removed from the building.
All five victims were taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for autopsies and identification. Hamill said Friday that the condition of the bodies made it impossible to determine their age or sex.
The county's acting fire chief, David Steckel, said Friday that the recovery process has been slow because of how badly the building was damaged. The recovery effort continued throughout Friday and ended in the evening. Crews will resume the search Monday.
"The building still presents as a collapse hazard, which is a dangerous situation for the personnel," Steckel said. "The movement of debris itself presents a challenge. Every time you move something, it has the possibility to impinge the integrity of the structure so we have to be careful and methodical."
At least 100 people were working on the recovery efforts, which include firefighters, rescue and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives workers.
The explosion late Wednesday night shook buildings more than a mile away. An off-duty Montgomery County police officer was the one who first reported the fire and building collapse. When firefighters arrived, civilians on the scene had already begun using ladders to try and rescue people who were trapped on the upper floors of apartment units. The magnitude of the explosion propelled clothing and shoes into the street and nearby trees.
On Friday, authorities were still working to determine the cause of the blast. The ATF had roughly 30 people working the investigation and assisting local authorities. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett told reporters a complaint of a gas smell was investigated in the area on July 25, but he did not go into any more details.
Donations have been pouring in to help the residents who have been displaced from the apartment complex located on Piney Branch Road. CASA de Maryland said on Friday they have received so much that they are no longer taking in donated items. However, they will still continue to accept money and gift cards donations.
Other organizations are still accepting donations of all kinds. Click here for more information on how you can help.
Authorities are urging anyone with information on the whereabouts of those missing to contact law enforcement.