By Gabriella Sacidor and Elizabeth Hur

LOWER TOWNSHIP, N.J., (CBS) – An elderly couple is hospitalized after a house explosion Thursday afternoon in Lower Township, Cape May County.

The incident was reported at about 4 p.m. at the 200 block of East Atlantic Avenue in the Villas section.

Lower Township Mayor Michael Beck says the husband and wife, identified by neighbors as Jim and Evelyn McCarty, were rescued by neighbors from the burning home.

“With the house on fire, some of the people, I understand one was an off-duty Lower Township police officer, they went into the house and pulled the wife out first, then the husband,” Beck said.

Antoine Sloane, Good Samaritan said, “We immediately ran to go see if anybody was in there.”

Nick Plasi, Good Samaritan added, “Got Evelyn out of the living room, went running around and Jim was in the shower at the time.”

Dana Morrow, Good Samaritan also said, “There was a whole bunch of wood on top of him and when they were still in the building and we just pulled the wood off and got him out.”

The couple was flown to Crozer Chester Medical Center. They are listed in critical condition.

Beck, who lives in the neighborhood, tells CBS 3 he heard the explosion.

“I live about 100 feet from the house that exploded and I ran over,” Beck said.  “It was loud, very loud.”

Lower Township Manager Mike Voll described the scene.

“When I pulled up to the scene a little after 4 p.m. when I got the call about this emergency it looked like a war zone. Debris from the home was blown yards, hundreds have of yards away in different directions. So the impact was felt miles away and it was quite an explosion,” Voll said.

Chief Rich Herron Jr, Villas Fire noted, “It’s been a very long time since an incident of this magnitude has happened in this area.”

The home may have been destroyed but neighbors are relieved Jim and Evelyn McCarty survived. All now wonder what went wrong.

Plasi recalled, “Jim said to me when we were walking, he said he smelled the gas. So that may be it, I’m not going to say that’s definitely it, but that’s what he said.”

Officials did confirm new gas lines were recently installed in this neighborhood, but there is no official word on the exact cause of the fire at this time.

The Fire Marshal, fire inspectors, and Lower Township detectives are investigating.

Fifty firefighters from six fire companies battled the blaze for hours. The neighborhood was evacuated, but Voll says the neighborhood is secure and residents have been able to return to their homes.

“This is under control, our fire departments, it was several alarm fire, they did an outstanding job working in conjunction with our police,” Voll said.

Voll says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will be out Friday morning because of the explosion involved.

“We want to make sure that we get to the root of how it actually happened,” he said.

Stay with for the latest on this developing story.

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