ALFRED, N.Y. - One day after part of an apartment building at the Rose Apartment complex on Glen Street was destroyed, investigators are leaning toward a natural gas explosion as the cause of the damage.
"It has all the characteristics of a gas explosion," Allegany County Fire Coordinator Jeff Luckey told WGRZ-TV. "You have the blown out walls, wide debris field, and little actual fire damage," Luckey said.
Crews on Monday were concentrating their focus on what was left of a utility room, where they say gas and electricity service entered the building
Alfred Police say the explosion happened shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday.
Photo Gallery: Apartment Collapse Near Alfred State College
Two people were injured in the explosion, but suffered nothing more serious than "bumps and bruises" according to Village of Alfred Police Chief Tim O'Grady.
"It's very fortunate, when you look at the explosion and the damage...it's hard to imagine anyone walking out of there," O'Grady said.
"I thought it was an earthquake":
Jessica Hussar, an Alfred University graduate student from Binghamton, was in her second floor apartment grading papers when she says the blast literally knocked her from her chair.
"It felt like what I imagine an earthquake to be," Husser told Two On Your Side.
Hussar says after getting up off the floor, she tried to escape but found the door to her apartment was jammed shut.
"I took shelter under a table because part of the roof began collapsing," she recalled, before she managed to recover her cell phone and dial 9-1-1 for help.
"There was smoke and dust entering the apartment, and the 9-1-1 operator told me to put towels under the door. By then the fire department had arrived, and 9-1-1 told me to get away from the door and start yelling for help."
Hussar said after a short time, firemen broke down her door and helped her escape the building.
"For a minute there I thought I'd never make it out," she said
The more than 30 occupants of the apartment building have to find someplace else to live, as the lack of utilities and concerns about the structural integrity of what remains of the building makes their return unpermissive, according to O'Grady.
He believes that as soon as it's feasible, some apartment dwellers will be able to return to their homes briefly, while being escorted by emergency crews, to obtain essential papers, communications devices, clothes and medicine.
Many of the residents of the building affected are students at either Alfred University or Alfred State College, which are both nearby.
Both schools are trying to accommodate displaced students with available dorm rooms.
In the meantime Hussar, who is just months away from completing her Masters Degree in Psychology, is using humor as a strategy to help her cope.
"I always said 'graduate school is probably gonna kill me'...and it almost did," she laughed.
Alfred State sent the following message out to students via email Sunday evening:
"Several community members were displaced from their home this evening following an explosion at the Rose Apartments on Glen Street that left the building badly damaged and at least one person - an Alfred State staff member - sustaining an injury.
Alfred State has made contact with each person from our community that lives at the apartment complex. Students displaced from the incident have been placed in a campus residence hall and impacted faculty/staff have been contacted to ensure that they have safe alternative housing. Working with the American Red Cross, Alfred State helped facilitate the creation of a temporary shelter at the Pioneer Center for any residents of the apartment building who need emergency assistance/lodging.
Many residents' belongings are damaged, destroyed, or inaccessible due to the building's condition. Alfred State is committed to helping our community members impacted by this incident and asks that you keep all the affected residents in your thoughts as recovery begins."