A massive explosion struck part of downtown Nashville early Friday after police responded to reports of gunfire and discovered a parked RV that reportedly had a warning that it was carrying a bomb.
The explosion shattered windows and tore trees apart, but appeared to save lives and only injured three people when it exploded at 6:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) in a part of southern US city largely due to the early hour and Christmas Day vacations were deserted.
The blast left up to 20 buildings, including shop windows, that were badly damaged and the street surface charred – glass, branches and bricks in an area filled with shops, restaurants and bars.
In a dramatic series of events that shook the calm of Christmas morning, police responded to calls that had gunfire fired and noticed the vehicle when they got to the scene.
A message played from the RV warned that a bomb would explode in 15 minutes – enough time for a bomb squad to clear the area before the explosion, Police Chief John Drake and spokesman Don Aaron told reporters.
Witnesses told the Tennessean newspaper that the warning, spoken in a woman’s voice, counted down to the explosion.
“Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and is going to explode,” one recalled of the terrifying recording.
Images shared on social media immediately after the episode showed thick clouds of black smoke rising from the burning motor home and torn apart shop windows.
The explosion occurred near an AT&T facility, and the telecommunications company told journalists, “Service to some customers in and around Nashville may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning.”
Nashville International Airport announced that it had temporarily suspended flights due to “telecommunications issues” related to the explosion.
Officer knocked on the floor
The Tennessean reported that officials carried out door-to-door checks.
A dog walker approached the vehicle shortly before the explosion, the newspaper said, but police sent him back in the other direction, possibly to save him from serious injury or death.
The blast knocked an officer down, the newspaper said, and caused another officer to have hearing loss.
Both President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden have been briefed on the incident, which is being investigated by the FBI and the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The agents immediately offered no possible motive or linked to a domestic terrorist attack.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether someone was in the motorhome when it exploded.
“This appears to have been a premeditated act. Law enforcement is shutting down downtown streets while the investigation continues,” the Metro Nashville Police Department tweeted.
According to local media, at least three people with minor injuries were taken to hospital, according to firefighters.
The explosion was big enough to be felt several kilometers away.
The damage was “limited but dramatic,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper, adding that the city was “lucky” that the explosion occurred over Christmas when there were few people downtown.
“It’s unfortunate, but any other morning it would have been a much worse story.”
Police said several people had been taken to a local station for questioning, although no arrests or details of suspects had been released.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, citing worrying messages from several public figures, said she prayed “for all concerned” and thanked the “courageous first responders for their safety.”
Biden issued a statement in which he and his wife Jill Biden said, “We thank all first responders who are working in response to the incident today and wish the injured a speedy recovery.”
Trump spokesman Judd Deere tweeted that the president was “grateful for the incredible first responders and prayed for the injured.”
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)