IMAGE: Watching the disaster scene from the far side of Piney Branch Road, Aug. 12, 2016, Photo by Bill Brown.
BY BILL BROWN
AUG 12—The search for victims of Wednesday night’s explosion and fire continue slowly due to hazardous conditions. The number of missing people is unknown and more may be found under the Flower-Branch apartment complex rubble. Two bodies were found yesterday.
Rumors of a third body detected under debris by a search dog were not confirmed at an August 12 afternoon Montgomery County briefing by county executive Ike Leggett and disaster response officials. Also not confirmed were charges that the explosion cause was a natural gas leak.
Leggett was quoted Aug. 11 in the Washington Post saying that it appears natural gas may have sparked the explosion.
An ATF official investigating the explosion and fire said no conclusions about the cause have been reached and will not be announced until the investigation is complete.
The damaged apartment building on Arliss Street. Photo by Bill Brown.
Efforts to assist people displaced from their homes are gearing up, as are those to locate missing persons who may not have reported in the authorities. 110 people have been accounted for, but an unknown number are still missing. A county emergency services assistant chief asked for family members, friends and residents to call 311. Translation services are available.
A Red Cross spokesman said 60 families are involved. Red Cross efforts so far include providing over 1800 meals.
The two bodies found are unidentified. Their age and gender have not yet been determined. Progress is slow at the site. Broken glass is a danger to personnel and the building structure is unstable.
Government and non-government agencies have announced assistance efforts and ways people can help.
For a listing of how community members can help fire victims go to this site.
CASA is looking for volunteers to help sort through donations. Volunteers are asked to go to the Silver Spring center 8/13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you can volunteer as an interpreter (Spanish-English or French-English) for affected families, email: email@example.com.
Media gear lined up across the street from the apartment complex. The incident has gained national and regional media attention. Photo by Bill Brown.
A Wider Circle at 9151 Brookeville Rd., Silver Spring, MD. says people donating furniture can call for pick-up or drop-off furniture seven days a week, Phone 301-608-3504.
Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington located at 501 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring, MD is taking money and goods donations. Call 301-585-6556. Checks can be sent to ACSGW at 501 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (Make checks payable to ACSGW) Emergency Fund. On-line and pay via PayPal and mark it “Other” or Emergency Fund @ www.acsgw.org Clothing, houseware items, toiletries, blankets, sheets, etc. No furniture.
ACSGW will be open for calls and services at the following days and times during this weekend: Saturday – 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., Sunday – 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
There is a Spanish speaking case manager at ACSGW for any help or questions.
People at the scene. Photo by Bill Brown.
Montgomery County has established a reunification center at the Long Branch Community Recreation Center located at 8700 Piney Branch Rd. Silver Spring.
MC311, the County’s Customer Service Call Center has extended hours. Callers who live in the County may call 311, callers outside of the County should call 240-777-0311.
A window in the strip mall across Arliss Street was broken by flying debris. Photo by Bill Brown.
Montgomery County Public Libraries Long Branch is providing services to support residents who lost their homes and personal belongings. The Long Branch Library is located at 8800 Garland Ave., Silver Spring. The library is open until 8 p.m. tonight and will reopen at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
The Library offers Spanish speakers on staff, computers and laptops for work and personal use, harging stations, free fast wi-fi, books, toys, and games, air Conditioning.
Additionally, library staff will provide library resources and materials to residents staying at the Long Branch Community Recreation Center emergency shelter.
Local businesses are also stepping up. Fenwick Beer and Wine at 1327 Fenwick Lane, Silver Spring, MD will donate 10% of total sales from Sunday August 14 to the Montgomery Housing Partnership on behalf of the victims.