A caravan exploded in downtown Nashville on Friday, shattering windows and injuring three people in what police described as a “deliberate act” as investigators searched for evidence among the debris.
The blast in the southern United States charred buildings and road surfaces, and scattered glass, tree branches and bricks across the street in an area full of shops, restaurants and bars.
In a dramatic sequence of peace-shattering events on Christmas Day in the early morning, police responded to calls for gunfire and reached the scene before the car caught fire.
Police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters that they had been alerted to a “suspicious” caravan in time for the bomb squad to clear the area before the explosion.
Immediately after the accident, images circulating on social media showed thick plumes of black smoke billowing from a burning RV and badly damaged storefronts.
US President Donald Trump has been briefed on the incident, which is being investigated by the FBI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as the Metropolitan Police.
The agents did not immediately provide any potential motive and did not link to any terrorist plot.
“This appears to have been an intentional act,” the Nashville Metro Police Department wrote on Twitter. “Law enforcement closes downtown streets as the investigation continues.”
And local media reported that firefighters said that at least three people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
The explosion was large enough to be felt several blocks away, but at 6:30 in the morning (1130 GMT) meant the streets were largely empty.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the damage was “limited but tragic,” adding that the city was “fortunate” to have the blast on Christmas when only a few people were in the city center.
“It’s unfortunate, but any other morning I think it would have been a much worse story.”
Police said that several people were taken to a local center for interrogation, although no arrests or details of the suspects were announced.
US Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee led messages of concern from multiple public figures, saying that she “prays for all of those involved” and thanked “the brave first responders to protect us.”