(THE RECORD) -- A powerful explosion rocked a Paterson neighborhood Tuesday morning, leveling two homes, causing damage to at least 15 other structures and rendering 11 people homeless, fire officials said.
No resident was injured in the blast, which occurred after a gas leak had been reported on Goshen Street.
The explosion took place in a three-story, two family building at 16 Goshen St., Fire Chief Michael Postorino said at the scene. A neighboring home at 18 Goshen was “totally flattened” he said. And 14 Goshen had severe structural damage.
“At this point, we are not aware of any injuries,” Postorino said.
The explosion was powerful enough to shatter windows blocks away, including those at the South Paterson Halal Meat Market. Debris from the explosion is scattered along Goshen Avenue. The owners of the house were speaking with police, but declined to comment on the explosion.
"It sounded like a bomb," said Alberto Volpe, 34, who lives about a block and half away. "We thought it was a terrorist attack."
Officers arrived at the scene after the homeowner smelled gas and reported a leak. That call came in at 9:01 a.m. When firefighters arrived at 9:05 a.m., they heard a hissing sound and proceeded to evacuate residents on Goshen Avenue and neighboring streets. As they were doing so, they asked people to shut off their cell phones and not to light anything to cut down on any possible source of ignition, Postorino said.
Ahmad Hasan, 18, was asleep in his house on nearby Sussex Street at the time of the explosion at 9:24 a.m..
“I thought I was in a dream,” he said. “I went out and all I saw was dust and smoke. It smelled like gas.”
Residents who live as far away as seven blocks from the scene said they felt their house shake.
Firefighters, police and PSE&G officials remain on the scene. All gas and electric to the area has been cut off as a precaution, officials said.
Postorino said the investigation is ongoing and he would not speculate on a cause of either the gas leak or what caused it to ignite.
“God forbid someone was in there,” Hasan said. “It was crazy.”
Kevin Camacho, 18, lives with his parents and aunt and uncle in a two-family house next door to the one that was leveled. He said his father, Ramon, left late for his job with a fencing business and heard and smelled gas coming from the house next door. He yelled for his family to get out of the house, his son said.
The family retreated across the street to a location about 100 yards away when the explosion occurred.
“It was really, really loud,” Kevin Camacho said of the explosion. “It felt like an action move, where you’re just walking away from the scene and all the debris is coming behind you.”
“I’m still shaky,” he added. “It’s unexplainable really.”