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At least 3 Minnesota fire victims remain critical

By Amy Forliti

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 2 2014 12:12 p.m. MST

Firefighters work the scene where a fire engulfed several apartment units in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, in Minneapolis, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. Authorities say at least 13 people have been hurt.

Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — At least three of the 14 people injured in an explosion and fire at a Minneapolis apartment complex remain hospitalized in critical condition Thursday, as crews were beginning the process of going through the building.

Ten victims from Wednesday's fire at a three-story building that houses a grocery store and apartments were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center. Christine Hill, hospital spokeswoman, said via email that three remain critical, six are in satisfactory condition and one person has been released. The victims suffered burns, broken bones or both.

Fire officials said six people were critically injured and some victims were taken to Fairview University hospital. Spokeswoman Jennifer Amundson said Thursday she could not release any information.

No fatalities have been reported, but authorities were still not sure Thursday whether any residents were inside. The building's roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter earlier, but crews were beginning the process of debris removal on Thursday morning.

"Crews will be very cautious and deliberate as they go through the structure," Assistant Fire Chief Cherie Penn said in a statement Thursday.

Officials said the cause of the fire wasn't immediately clear.

Abdi Warsame, a Minneapolis City Councilman-elect for the area, said the victims are members of the city's large Somali community.

Abdirizak Bihi, a local Somali who has provided social services to residents in the building in the past, said anywhere from two to four people remained unaccounted for on Thursday.

"We don't know exactly who is missing, the exact number, but we know that people are unaccounted for," he said.

Bihi, who said he is familiar with the building, said it is routinely busy on weekends or holidays, when people gather to socialize or play cards.

"The place is usually packed," he said. He said at least a few community elders are among the building's residents, and at least three residents were out of town at the time of the fire.

Wednesday's firefighting efforts were hampered by the frigid cold. As firefighters aimed their hoses at the flames, water gushed from windows and doorways, forming icicles on window frames and leaving the street slick and icy.

The facade of the building and trees out front were also coated with a layer of ice. Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said no fire crew members were hurt, adding that they did a great job under "extreme conditions."

Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said his group is opening a fund to collect donations for victim and families.

"This is a horrible tragedy," Noor said in a statement. "We stand together to help families both in the immediate aftermath and in the days, weeks and months to come."

Noor asked the community to support families as the search for the missing continues.

"We pray that they are found and can resume their lives," he said.

Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti

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