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What to know about the Nashville explosion

Nashville woke up still stunned on Saturday after a massive explosion swept through the city’s downtown core over Christmas, destroying storefronts, injuring three people and leaving the city in search of answers.

Investigators were working on Saturday to piece together what happened before an RV – parked by the side of the street and apparently loaded with explosives – exploded. The explosion, in an area that regularly attracts thousands of people every night, damaged buildings and released a plume of smoke visible for miles. No suspect has been identified and the motive remains unknown so far.

Here’s what you need to know about the case.

Before the explosion, a strange message sounded from the RV, warning that a bomb would explode within 15 minutes. Then he started a countdown interspersed with music, police said.

Police officers who had arrived before dawn to investigate a report of gunfire heard the warning and started knocking on doors and evacuating people from the area.

Betsy Williams said she heard what she thought were gunshots and later noticed the motorhome parked in front of her apartment.

“He started to spread this message,” she recalls. “Evacuate now. This vehicle has a bomb and will explode. Evacuate now. ”

When the recording, which sounded like a mechanized woman’s voice, started counting down, Ms Williams said, she and her family abandoned their apartment and rushed to safety.

“It’s not like bad weather or a fire or anything like that,” she said. “You go, ‘OK, is this for real?’ Well, it was.

Police at the scene called a bomb squad, but it was too late. The RV exploded around 6:30 am. Ms Williams observed the explosion from a distance.

It is not yet known who carried out the attack, but police released a photo of the camper van, claiming its driver drove the vehicle onto the sidewalk past an AT&T transmission building on North Second Avenue at 1:22 a.m. . just blocks from the iconic telephone company office tower in the city. The image shows the vehicle heading into the city center with its headlights on, the white camper van lit by streetlights and shiny storefronts.

Police were still trying to find out if anyone was inside the camper van when it exploded on Saturday. They said they found human remains in the area of ​​the explosion.

The blast site is in a part of downtown with honky-tonks, restaurants and other tourist destinations including a Hard Rock Cafe, Redneck Riviera Bar and BBQ, and Honky Tonk Bus Company . Even though they vowed to locate the person (s) responsible, authorities said the blast could have been much worse if it had happened almost any other night when the sidewalks could have been filled. of people.

The FBI field office in Memphis is investigating and the mayor has issued an emergency order until Sunday to keep people away from the blast site. Several companies and individuals with ties to Nashville have offered rewards to anyone who provides information to resolve the matter.

The consequences of the explosion were considerable.

Broken glass and bricks were strewn around the city center. The trees were charred by the flames from the explosion, and broken water pipes were spitting out water.

The explosion also damaged the AT&T building, causing widespread service outages that continued on Saturday. The explosion affected certain cellular services in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, and hampered the communication of 20 or more 911 call centers, said Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee.

The Federal Aviation Administration has temporarily halted flights from Nashville International Airport due to telecommunications issues caused by the explosion. For those who lived near the site of the blast, the widespread effects were not surprising.

“The whole neighborhood shook,” said Lily Hansen, who was sitting on a sofa in her second-floor apartment a few blocks away. “It looked like something you would see in a horror movie. I just can’t get the image out of my head.

Buck McCoy, who lives less than a block from the blast site, said his home was destroyed by the blast.

“It just tore up my whole apartment,” he says. “There isn’t a part of the house that hasn’t been shaken.

Officials said at least 41 businesses – including several historic buildings – were damaged by the blast and one of them in front of the camper van had collapsed.

Saturday morning Mr. Lee, a Republican, said in a letter to President Trump that the “gravity and magnitude” of the destruction required federal assistance, and he called on the president to declare an emergency disaster for Tennessee.

Mayor John Cooper, a Democrat, vowed that Nashville would rebuild quickly.

The attack “was intended to create chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope,” Cooper said. He said that despite the destruction, the town appeared to have avoided a deadly attack because it happened over Christmas.

“Another morning it would have been a much worse story, of course,” he said.

Lucy Tompkins contributed reporting.

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