Two men have been taken to the hospital after a blast rocked a neighborhood in Austin, Texas. The police have warned residents to stay away from the area.
Initial reports suggested there had been two explosions, but police have only confirmed one “Bomb Hotshot” call, and county Emergency Medical Service (EMS) say a “critical incident” has left two people injured. The injuries are serious, but not expected to be life-threatening.
“It’s obvious that there has been an explosion, and it’s obvious that is has caused significant injuries to two people,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told journalists following the incident.
The area is still a “very active scene right now,” Manley added, noting that police have been checking another suspicious item that they discovered in the same area.
“We do have a second item in the area, a backpack, that we are clearing right now to ensure that it is safe,” he said.
Officials have not yet said whether they believe the blast is connected to the three explosions that took place in Austin earlier this month.
The new explosion comes a week after two package bombs went off in the city on Monday morning, killing a 17-year-old local and injuring two women. The teenager inadvertently triggered the device by opening the box after finding it on the steps of his home in a northeast Austin neighborhood, police said.
In a separate incident, a 75-year-old woman was “significantly injured” after she opened a box in front of her home in another part of the city, police said on Monday.
Both of Monday’s incidents are being linked to an even earlier explosion on March, 2, which killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House in the Harris Ridge neighborhood.
Police believe the three attacks earlier in March were likely carried out by a single serial bomber. With the hunt for the suspect proving unsuccessful so far, Austin police appealed to the bomber to reach out to them and possibly lay out their demands on Sunday.
“We assure you, we are listening and we want to understand what brought you to this point, and we want to listen to you, so please call us,” Manley said at a press conference earlier on Sunday. A bounty of $115,000 is being offered for information on the suspect.
The explosive devices in all the previous cases were planted in cardboard boxes, prompting police to warn citizens against approaching suspicious-looking packages of unknown origin that were brought to their doorstep.
Scores of police officers have been combing through more than 400 leads, with some 200 interviews being carried out over the course of the investigation. However, the attacker’s motives are still unclear.
On Sunday, Manley said that the bombings were “meant to send a message.” There has been speculation that the attacks were potentially racially motivated. Victims in the first two explosions, 17-year-old Draylen Mason and House, 39, were black, while the third victim was an elderly Hispanic woman.
While police said that they did not rule out the possibility that the bombings were hate crimes, they did not want to limit the scope of the investigation to only one possible explanation.