'It was World War III': Neighbor describes horror of being trapped in rubble of apparent gas explosion

An explosion rocked a Port Richmond neighborhood just hours into the New Year. Three people are hospitalized while two others were treated for injuries and released. One person is in critical condition. Two homes were reduced to rubble and dozens of crews responded to the scene Sunday morning to start picking up the pieces as they look into what happened.

One neighbor, living close by, described the scene as World War III right on his block.

"My son came upstairs and said, ‘Dad, get out of bed! The houses behind us just blew up! They’re not there, they’re gone!’" Frank relayed.

A devastating and shocking start to the 2023 for residents after what fire officials believe was a gas explosion around 2:30 in the morning that leveled two rowhomes and shattered cars and windows for more than a block.

RELATED COVERAGE: Officials: 5 rushed to hospital, 2 homes completely collapse after apparent gas explosion in Port Richmond

"Once we started our investigation, we were able to pull two individuals who self-extricated themselves from the explosions and one individual we had to dig out of debris," Assistant Philadelphia Fire Department Chief Charles Walker said.

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The neighbor, Frank, said he’s grateful that he and his family are not seriously hurt after his ceiling collapsed in on him when the houses exploded. "I was trapped underneath the ceiling and, fortunately, I didn’t get hurt, my mom didn’t get hurt, so we’re all alive."

The night was full of celebratory fireworks, due to New Year’s Eve celebrations, which caused confusion for many in the area.

"I thought World War III was going on, to be honest with you. I heard the loudest boom that I ever heard in my life and they were setting fireworks and when the ceiling came down, I thought that the fireworks hit my roof," Frank explained.

Frank went on to explain he’s never experienced anything close to Sunday’s morning devastation in his life. "Never. Never! Like I said, I thought it was World War III and it looks like it over there. Looks like Armageddon over there. I feel sorry for the people that lived in those houses."

The damage was far beyond what any reasonable firework could do, the damage radius affecting so many homeowners. Not the way the neighbor wanted 2023 to start.

"For this to happen on New Year’s, it’s a bad start to the New Year. It’s a bad omen. I’m hoping the rest of the year is different from today," Frank remarked.