The explosion took place at 6.30 a.m. (12.30 p.m. GMT), causing extensive damage to the facades of surrounding buildings. The windows of many apartments, shops and offices have been blown out. Debris – glass, tree branches, bricks – littered the ground, water pipes were breached, and parked vehicles were damaged or burned to the ground.
At least three people were taken to hospital with minor injuries, according to firefighters. No deaths have been confirmed, but investigators will analyze tissue found at the blast site that could be human remains, Nashville Police Chief John Drake said.
Police do not know if anyone was inside the camper van at the time of the explosion.
The explosion, in a shopping district, was felt for several kilometers around.
“We believe it was a deliberate act,” Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said.
The neighborhood was cordoned off by the police. The FBI and the Federal Weapons and Explosives Agency have taken the lead in the investigation.
President Donald Trump’s spokesman Judd Deere tweeted that the president was “grateful for the amazing first responders and pray for the injured.”
President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement in which he and his wife Jill “thank all first responders” and “wish the injured a speedy recovery.”
A police patrol, who had been called shortly before 6 a.m. for the shots fired, noticed the camper van parked in front of an AT&T company building on 2nd Avenue North.
Officers “heard a recording” from inside the vehicle warning that a bomb would explode a quarter of an hour later, Police Chief John Drake said.
“Evacuate now, there is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode ”, said a female voice in this message broadcast by loudspeaker before starting a countdown, told witnesses to the local newspaper Tennessean.
This delay allowed police to go door-to-door calling on residents of surrounding buildings to evacuate.
Police posted a photo of the cream-colored camper van on Twitter before it pulled up to the explosion site, and called for witnesses.
Several dog teams inspected the area of the blast all morning but could not find any other charges, said police spokesman Don Aaron.
Firefighters also examined the affected buildings for a first estimate of the extent of the damage and went door to door to look for possible victims.
The motive for this act is currently unknown. “The vehicle exploded in front of the AT&T building, we don’t know if it was a coincidence or if it was deliberate,” the police spokesman said.
The explosion damaged the facilities of the American telephone company. “Service for some Nashville and area customers may be affected,” AT&T warned on Twitter.
The city’s international airport has announced that it has temporarily stopped its flights due to “telecommunications problems” linked to the explosion.
The city’s iconic AT & T skyscraper is nicknamed “Batman Tower” because of its shape.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the city was “very lucky” that there were so few injuries despite “spectacular” damage.
“It happened on Christmas morning, it’s a shame, but I think any other morning would have been much worse” because there would have been a lot more people in this shopping district, he explained. .
Asked about the reasons that would have pushed the perpetrators of the explosion to target his city, he explained that Nashville, temple of country music, was “famous”.
“If people want attention and publicity, sometimes they come here,” he said.