KANSAS CITY, MO (CBS/KCTV) -- Police with search dogs are searching for possible bodies this morning, in the rubble of a restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. A natural gas explosion caused an inferno last night at "Country Club Plaza," a downtown shopping district.
The explosion rocked the upscale Kansas City community just after 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday, the towering blaze engulfed an entire block and injured over a dozen people, some severely. Just hours before the blast, many in the area had been complaining of a strong smell of gas. Dr. John Verstraete with Plaza Physicians Group says, "We finally called the gas company, they came out, they checked inside our building and said that we needed to evacuate. It wasn't two minutes when we were grabbing our stuff that the explosion hit. And it hit you like a shockwave."
Officials say the flames may have been triggered by a contractor hitting a natural gas line underground during construction. There were no immediate reports of deaths, but after one of the city's most popular restaurants, JJ's, was destroyed by the flames, Kansas City's mayor is counting his blessings. Kansas City Mayor Sly James says, "I was there four or five times a week and at 5:30 on a Tuesday night, that place would often be packed. So I was really praying that that wasn't the case - and I don't believe it was. I think we were lucky in that regard."
JJ's had been cleared out by authorities before the explosion, but late Tuesday, search teams were still combing through the smoldering rubble. Fire Chief Paul Berardi says, "We have had cadaver dogs on the pile and they have not indicated that they have made any hits whatsoever. But we continue to look because we have reports that two people may be missing."