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Official: Explosion flattens house in Washington, DC, suburb

In this photo provided by the Montgomery County fire & Rescue Service, personnel of the emergency services work at the scene of an level home in Rockville, Md., Friday, 17 March 2017. Authorities say the explosion occurred at about 1 pm and Friday and reduced the home to a “pile of stones.”

(Montgomery County fire & Rescue Service via AP)

A house was completely destroyed and its occupant remains missing after a night with the explosion in Rockville, Maryland.

The explosion was reported around 1 a.m. in the 11400 block of Ashley Drive in the Randolph Hills neighborhood.

Neighbors tell FOX 5 that the force of the explosion shook their homes. Many people report that their windows were also damaged.

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Fire officials say the explosion could be felt over a mile away, and that 911 calls received from residents for nearly two miles away.

Aid workers say several houses in the vicinity of the explosion site suffered damage and a large debris field around the house.

Fire officials say they are aware of the reports of the neighbors that say ammunition and firearms were kept in the house. The officials do not believe that this would have contributed to the explosion.

“It’s just a pile of rubble; it’s just a pile of stones. There is not anything left of the house,” said Pete Piringer, chief spokesperson for Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service. “I have heard that there were conversations from far away, people to call.”

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He described the house damage as “catastrophic”, and added at least a dozen other houses were damaged as a result of the “large debris field” of the explosion. Researchers were just beginning to probe the rubble, he added, pointing at a cause of the explosion was not yet determined.

“The status of the resident is unknown,” he said, adding authorities had no further information. But he said that researchers would extensively check the debris in daylight hours and try to determine what happened.

Piringer said there were no reports of any gas leaks before the explosion, but he said a gas explosion was one possibility that is not excluded in the first instance.

Paul Ricci lives in the area and captured video of the flames after the explosion. He said that the impact felt similar to the 2011 earthquake in the DC.

“It shocked me out of bed. We immediately got up and began to wonder what was going on,” Ricci said. “We took a look outside and saw a glow. Someone came running and said a house blew up – which immediately sent a chill down our spine.”

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