Some downtown apartment tenants in limbo after Durham explosion

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some tenants in the West Village building are now being allowed back inside after Durham's deadly explosion, as neighbors face a much more uncertain future.

"Pretty scary. Pretty surreal. And yeah I saw what was going on on TV, and just clouds of smoke and fire," said Alyssa Schock, who learned about the explosion while at work.

She stayed with friends Wednesday night and was able to get back inside her apartment Thursday. Schock told ABC 11 that outside some artwork being knocked down, her apartment was spared.

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"Walking down the hall it could have been a lot worse," Schock said. "We were just walking down and a lot of people's doors were busted open. Looking at what damage was, lots of glass everywhere, windows shattered, stuff off the walls."

Like Schock, Tammy Morales learned about the explosion at work.

"My director's like 'you probably should go home and check things out and make sure everything's all right,'" Morales said.

Taking the advice, Morales made the trek from Chapel Hill, thinking it would be a quick check and back to the office. Instead, she pulled up on the scene, with several roads shut down and police tape a constant sight. She wanted to get back inside to check on her beloved cat, Emma Blue Marker.

"It was probably about two hours. And when I got here there were a number of other neighbors who were waiting longer than that. It was police taped off, so obviously we couldn't pass," Morales said.

Eventually, officers began to escort tenants inside where they were allowed to pick up their pets or medicine, but nothing else. Thankfully, her cat was okay, but Morales had to stay with friends out of town last night.

On Thursday, she was able to survey her apartment. Morales said the windows won't close and some picture frames are broken, but she will be able to stay there Thursday night.

Around the block, several emergency crews will be there for the next several weeks, sifting through the rummage and clearing debris. While they will have plenty of time to do so, it was the quick-actions taken by firefighters that likely spared further damage.

"Luckily we know our interaction yesterday made the difference in saving at least 8-10 minutes, from the coffee shop in our evacuations. Putting ourselves, our members at risk to save lives is what we do, and it worked out yesterday," said Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos II.
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