MINNEAPOLIS — Fire officials said Friday they believe they have accounted for all victims of an explosion and fire in a Minneapolis apartment building, after recovering the bodies of two people from the building’s charred ruins.
The Wednesday morning fire in the heart of Minneapolis’ large Somali community also injured 14 people, some seriously. Nine people were still hospitalized Friday, including three in critical condition.
Fire officials said they received a call about an explosion about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, and within minutes a fire raged through the three-story building, which also housed a grocery store. Paramedics responding in sub-zero temperatures found victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they fell or jumped multiple stories.
Two people didn’t make it out of the building. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner identified one of them as Ahmed Farah Ali, a 57-year-old resident of one of the apartments. His body was recovered from the site Thursday.
A second body was recovered Friday. The identity of that person was not immediately released.
“Fire officials now believe everyone who was in the building has been accounted for,” the fire department said in a statement Friday, adding that officials finished demolishing the building.
Fire Chief John Fruetel said Thursday that investigators are focusing on a gas explosion as a possible cause due to the nature of the debris field and because some witnesses spoke of an odor. However, he added the exact cause may never be determined.
Becca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy, said there were no natural gas leaks in the system and that the utility received no reports of a suspicious odor before the blast.
Greg Boosalis, supervisory special agent with the FBI in Minneapolis, said the investigation is continuing, but at this juncture there is no evidence of terrorist activity. Boosalis said the FBI has been assisting Minneapolis officials in a “support role.”
The apartment building is adjacent to a mosque, which sustained heavy water and smoke damage. Abdisalam Adam, board chair of Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, said other locations have offered to host the mosque’s regular classes until the building can be repaired.
The nearby Brian Coyle Community Center hosted afternoon prayers and will continue to do so as long as needed, said the center’s director, Amano Dube. Dube estimated about 80 people attended.
Before the bodies were recovered, several local Somalis spoke of the heartache of not knowing whether their loved ones made it out of the building alive.
Katra Ali Hethar, of Waite Park in central Minnesota, said she is married to Ahmed Farah Ali. In an interview before learning of his death, she said her husband moved to Minneapolis in hopes of finding work. Hethar said through an interpreter that she and her husband had no children together, but he had four children with other women.
Ali’s ex-wife, Hawo Daqare, said Ali was a good father, “very helpful,” and likes children. She said he came to the United States in 1980. A distant relative of Ali’s, Mohamed Abdi, said Ali was a businessman who once owned a grocery store in New York.
Abdirizak Bihi, a community member, said many people knew Ali.
“Everybody knew him and had interactions with him,” Bihi said. “He was a very outgoing person in the community. (His death) really will be a shock.”
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