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2 people have been killed in an explosion at a Houston manufacturer that shook the city and damaged homes

[Breaking news update, published at 10:33 a.m. ET]

Two people have died as a result of Friday morning’s explosion at a Houston manufacturing business, city Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

A criminal investigation into the blast’s cause is underway, he said.

“We have no evidence at this point … that an intentional act is involved. Having said that, part of our protocol is always to (start) a criminal investigation” in such a case, Acevedo said.

“It’s going to take days, if not weeks or months, to get a final determination of what’s going on here.”

People who are within a mile of the blast site should look for debris — including body parts — and report it to authorities if they see something, Acevedo said.

“Please search your homes, and if you can, take a look at your roof,” Acevedo said.

[Original story, published at 10:10 a.m. ET]

An explosion at a northwest Houston manufacturing business Friday shook the city for miles, sending at least one person to a hospital, damaging homes up to a half-mile away and jolting people from their sleep.

At least one person is unaccounted for after the blast at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

The blast happened around 4:15 a.m. local time (5:15 a.m. ET) at 4525 Gessner Road, about an 18-mile drive northwest of downtown, officials said.

A fireball rose from the scene after the blast, video posted to Twitter appears to show. The distant footage was taken by a camera mounted to a home window.

Details about what caused the explosion weren’t immediately available. At least one person was injured by shattered glass and was taken to a hospital, Houston fire Capt. Oscar Garcia said.

Flames no longer were visible by daylight, but firefighters hadn’t explored the blast site because an unspecified gas was flowing in the damaged business, and crews were trying to shut it off, Houston fire Chief Samuel Pena said.

“We won’t be able to get in there until we secure that,” Pena told reporters at a news conference.

Officials had no reports of any air quality hazards, Pena said.

Blast breaks windows and damages doors some distance away

Debris flew a half-mile from the explosion site, Acevedo tweeted. Many homes in the area were damaged, including broken windows and doors, and in at least one case, a collapsed ceiling, CNN affiliates reported.

“The whole ceiling fell in,” a resident told KTRK about her home.

“I thought maybe the house had gotten hit by lightning. And then I realized there was no storm,” the resident told KTRK.

Mark Brady, who lives about a half-mile from the manufacturing business, told CNN affiliate KPRC the blast “knocked us all out of our bed.”

“It busted out every window in our house. It busted everybody’s garage door in around here … and closer toward the explosion over here, it busted people’s roofs in and walls in,” he said.

“I live downtown,” said Pena, the fire chief, “and I felt it all the way downtown.”

A temporary shelter has opened for people whose homes were damaged

A church in the area is serving as a temporary shelter “for anybody that we may have to evacuate out of their home due to damage,” Pena said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people need to leave their homes.

No formal evacuation order was immediately in place. Still, Mayor Sylvester Turner asked people to stay away from the area so emergency responders could work.

A school district in the area, Spring Branch ISD, said it plans for a full school day, though buses may be delayed.

“We will keep all students inside today as air quality in the area continues to be monitored,” the district said on Twitter.

Author: Jason Hanna, Melissa Alonso and Chuck Johnston, CNN
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