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Crews search a Texas hotel for anyone still trapped as investigators dig into what caused an explosion that injured 21 people

By Joe Sutton, Nouran Salahieh, Holly Yan and Andy Rose, CNN

(CNN) — Rescuers are sifting through the rubble of a historic Texas hotel to try to find anyone who might still be trapped inside, one day after an apparent gas explosion rocked downtown Fort Worth.

The area immediately surrounding the Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel remains closed to the public Tuesday as officials investigate the cause of the blast.

“This is considered the actual immediate hot zone,” said Jimmy Pollozani with the Fort Worth Police Department. “We’re asking the community to stay away from this area.”

At least 21 people were injured by the blast Monday, including one person who was critically injured and four who were seriously injured, according to a spokesperson for MedStar, which provides emergency medical services and operates ambulances in the area.

No updates on their conditions were available Tuesday, Pollozani said, and no one was found trapped in the rubble Tuesday morning.

“Search and rescue operations occurred through the night and continue this morning with specially trained canines,” the Fort Worth Fire Department posted Tuesday on X. “At this time, no additional victims have been located.”

Pollozani said the main work of firefighters Tuesday was to remove the wreckage from the building for analysis. “They’re inside right now trying to collect all the debris and bring it all outside systematically, one wheelbarrow at a time,” he said.

Fire officials believe the blast was caused by “some type of gas explosion” but are still working with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to verify the cause, Fort Worth Fire Department spokesperson Craig Trojacek said Monday.

Early reports indicated the blast might have happened in a restaurant where construction was underway, but “we’re not 100% sure that that’s where it actually started,” Trojacek said.

There was no immediate indication that the blast was criminal in nature, a federal law enforcement source told CNN.

The explosion hurled the entire facade of a room toward the street, planting it next to a tree on the sidewalk.

Several rooms had their exterior walls completely blown away, revealing office chairs, business tables and gym equipment in plain view from outside.

The blast sent a thick plume of smoke billowing over downtown highrises and scattered debris on roads as rescuers rushed to help the injured and those trapped in a basement.

The nearly 104-year-old building, which officials say had recently been renovated, is in the busy downtown area near the Fort Worth Convention Center and City Hall.

“It was chaos,” Trojacek said, describing the raging fire and blown-out windows and walls.

One witness reported seeing people coming out of the hotel with bloody faces and seeing people on gurneys following the blast, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Three employees of the Musume restaurant in the Sandman hotel were among the injured. Musume was closed at the time, and no customers were dining when the blast happened, the restaurant said on Facebook.

But the hotel was operating when the explosion happened, with 26 rooms occupied at the time, Trojacek said. He said there was some reconstruction happening at the hotel at the time.

The Sandman hotel said it was working with first responders and hoping to help those who had been injured.

“Emergency responders are onsite and we are working closely with the authorities to understand the origin of the event and the extent of the harm caused,” a statement from the hotel said. “The safety and well-being of our team members and guests is our priority. We are working with those who have been injured to fully support them at this time.”

‘Heartbreaking for downtown Fort Worth’

In the aftermath of the blast, debris covered the street outside the hotel, where sections of the building’s façade appeared to have been ripped off in the blast.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said the blast was “heartbreaking for downtown Fort Worth.”

“It’s a beautiful building. It was just recently renovated and opened, and so we’ll work with the ownership of that building as quickly as possible,” Parker said Monday. “Our hearts and prayers are really with the victims at area hospitals.”

The mayor said she wasn’t in the area at the time, but surrounding government buildings were evacuated.

City Hall staff heard the blast when it happened and many said it felt like an earthquake, the mayor said.

Across the street from the hotel, Thompson’s Bookstore and Speakeasy was significantly damaged in the blast.

“Everyone in the building at the time is ok, but it will be a while until we understand the full scope of damage,” Clinton Bohn of the AngMar Retail Group told CNN in a statement.

The bookstore has significant damage to the side closest to the hotel and within the speakeasy area, which is underground, Bohn said.

The store will be temporarily closed until further notice. “The safety and well-being of our customers and staff are our top priorities, and we appreciate your understanding during this challenging time,” a Facebook post reads.

State officials are in contact with Forth Worth authorities and are ready to send additional help if needed, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.

“The State of Texas is in close contact with Mayor Parker, Sheriff Waybourn, and other local partners and first responders in Fort Worth to assist with emergency response efforts following the tragic explosion at the Sandman Hotel,” the governor said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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CNN’s Sarah Dewberry, Amanda Jackson, Josh Campbell and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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