The explosion occurred Tuesday, Feb. 19, in Century Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.
At least five people were seriously injured when a car struck a gas main Tuesday evening in an upscale business and shopping district of Kansas City, Mo., authorities told NBC News.
Kansas City police said the explosion occurred about 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) outside JJ's Restaurant in Country Club Plaza downtown. Enormous flames tore into the night sky outside the restaurant, which was at the center of the fire and was destroyed, NBC station KSHB of Kansas City reported.
Fire officials told NBC News that a secondary explosion occurred shortly afterward. They had no further details. Buses were sent to evacuate residents of a nearby residential and apartment complex.
"Get out! You are not safe here! Please!" rescue crews could be heard urging people who were trying to get a look at the scene.
At least 11 ambulances responded, fire officials said. Five people with serious injuries were being transported to Saint Luke's Hospital, the hospital told NBC News. Other people were reported to be on their way to other hospitals, which said they had no details yet but had set up command centers
Jason Fulp, a spokesman for Missouri Gas Energy, told NBC News that he had no immediate information on the blast. "We're trying to get our arms around it," he said.
Witnesses told KSHB that they smelled natural gas in the area of the restaurant at least an hour before the explosion.
The explosion occurred at during the dinner hour at JJ's Restaurant, a 27-year-old Kansas City institution. JJ's is widely regarded as one of the best dinner spots in the Midwest, earning a 93 rating from Zagat's, and its wine cellar has been listed by The Wine Spectator as one of the finest in the world.
Carlo Dallaverson, Sossy Dombourian, Gina Gentilesco and Zoya Khan of NBC News contributed to this report.
This is a breaking story. Please check back for developments.