RICHLAND, Iowa — A house exploded during a family reunion Monday afternoon, killing at least seven people and leaving "just a hole in the ground," the sheriff said.
Six other people were taken to hospitals in Iowa City, and three were listed in critical condition.
The blast destroyed the ranch-style home and cars parked out front. Hours after the explosion, smoke was still coming from the charred debris.
"There's just a hole in the ground," Keokuk County Sheriff Ron George said. "When I got here, the house was gone."
George said the dead were found in the basement.
The cause of the explosion was unknown. The sheriff said a propane tank behind the house was still intact.
A couple and their two daughters lived in the home, neighbors said.
"We've known them forever," said Maria Reif, who lives in the neighborhood. "They're wonderful people. He built that house himself, and it was a beautiful home."
Reif lives two blocks away. "I was sitting on my front steps and I heard a boom and I saw fire shoot up," she said.
Richland is 35 miles southwest of Iowa City.