WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A federal emergency declaration has been approved to allow the transport and use of equipment and personnel to search for four missing workers at an explosion at the DeBruce Grain elevator in Sedgwick County, Kan., yesterday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated the Lincoln, Neb., Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Force and other personnel to the scene.
The explosion, which occurred 9:20 a.m. CDT, June 8, partially collapsed the concrete and steel structure killing two, injuring six and possibly burying four others in tunnels running underneath the grain storage facility. A Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit from Fort Riley, Kan., rescued four other individuals with burns from atop the damaged structure.
The missing workers are believed to be in a tunnel underneath the elevator. Rescue workers are making their way to an 800-foot section of one of four tunnels, where the missing people were believed to be working at the time of the explosion. Progress is hampered by grain that sifts into tunnels after the rescue workers dig.
The explosion may have been caused by a spark that ignited highly combustible grain dust, according to a spokesman for the Sedgwick County Emergency Management Office. The explosion knocked a hole the size of the small house out of the center of the structure, and blew out concrete on both ends of the elevator.