ATLANTA -- A powerful explosion blew out part of a daycare center in a predominatly black, low-income housing project in northwest Atlanta today, killing at least five, including four children, police said.
Fire officials blamed the explosion at the Bowen Homes Daycare Center on gas leaking from the daycare center's furnace.
Police confirmed five killed, but a spokesman for Grady Memorial Hospital, where the victims were being taken, said five children had been reported killed and two adults.
Reports of injured ranged from 7 to 12. Rescue workers dug through rubble for more victims and some injured were treated at the scene.
Police said there were 83 children, all young black males, and 12 adults at the center at the time of the explosion. The center had a capacity of 85 children.
J. Michael Yelton, public relations director for Grady, said 'apparently there are five children dead at the scene and two adults.'
Yelton said five injured children and two adults had been brought to the hospital, 'one with 25 percent second- and third-degree burns over the lower extremities, three with superficial lacerations and abrasions, one with a depressed skull fracture.'
An eye witness to the explosion, Freddie Billinger, 20, said he was standing about 200 feet from the daycare center when the blast occured. 'Bricks went up and things flew all around,' he said. 'White smoke billowed and then it disappeared.'
Billinger said after the explosion he jumped over a fence separating him from the center and ran to help get the children out. He said children and teachers were running out of the center, many bleeding.
He said he saw one teacher and a little boy dead in the rubble.
'I saw one little boy with his arm cut off. It was horrible,' he said.
Little 5-year-old Tommy Malsly, who was in the center, was shaken and subdued but otherwise unharmed.
'The whole school blowed in,' he said.
The powerful blast blew out the side of the connecting hallway. Bricks and concrete were hurled 200 feet to 300 feet from the center by the force of the blast. Some apartments in the housing project had windows blown out.
While police and rescue personnel dug through the rubble a crowd of about 1,000 people gathered behind police lines.
Police emergency vehicles and fire engines rushed to the center shortly after the explosion about 10:30 a.m. EDT.
The center is located in a housing project built in 1964 by the Atlanta Housing Authority. The daycare center is operated by the the Gate City Day Nursery Association. | includes previous