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Officials: 2 believed dead, several missing after gas explosion, 3-alarm fire in South Philadelphia

Fire officials say two people are believed dead and several others remain unaccounted for after a suspected gas explosion ignited a fire that tore through several row homes in South Philadelphia on Thursday.

The explosion happened on the 1400 block of South 8th Street around 11:30 a.m.

Officials say the explosion and subsequent inferno leveled three homes and heavily damaged two others.

More than 120 members responding from the Philadelphia Fire Department and other agencies responded to the scene of the three-alarm blaze. 

Philadelphia Gas Works worked to shut off the gas in the area. The fire was placed under control just before 3 p.m. 

"This is still a very active and dynamic scene," Fire Commissioner Thiel said. "First priority is to go in and search for people."

First witnesses on scene rushed to help their neighbors but had to leave for their own safety. 

"It was like a bomb went off," one witness explained. 

Fire officials say those who live on the 1400 block of South 8th Street and South Franklin Street should plan to stay elsewhere for the night or go to South Philadelphia High School.

The Red Cross is on the scene to provide aid to those affected.

Eleven hours after the fire, crews were still dousing the smoldering flames in the bitter cold Philadelphia night.

FOX 29 has learned the search for survivors has been temporarily suspended for the night.

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