Springfield: Preliminary investigations show more than 40 buildings were damaged in a natural gas explosion in western Massachusetts that injured 18 people, building inspectors said.
A strip club was flattened and a day care centre was heavily damaged in the massive explosion on Friday night in Springfield, one of the biggest cities in the northeastern New England states.
No one was killed in the explosion.
Investigators were trying yesterday to figure out what caused the blast that could be heard for kilometres, left a large hole in the ground where the multistory brick building housing Scores Gentleman`s Club once stood and scattered debris over several blocks.
Officials had already evacuated part of the entertainment district after responding to a gas leak and odour reported about an hour before the explosion.
Gas workers venting a gas leak got indications that the building was about to explode and they ducked for cover behind a utility truck along with firefighters and police officers just before the blast, said Mark McDonald, president of the New England Gas Workers Association.
Most of the injured were in that group, and the truck that saved their lives was essentially demolished, he said.
"It really is a miracle and it`s an example of our public safety officials, each and every day, putting themselves in harm`s way, taking what could have been considered a very routine call of an odour of gas, but they took the proper precautions," State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said.
"And thanks to God that they did."
Officials also marvelled how the 5:30 pm blast occurred when a day care centre next door was closed. The centre`s building was heavily damaged.
Lt Gov Tim Murray and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno were attending a tree lighting ceremony when the explosion occurred. Sarno said some people mistakenly thought the boom was part of the holiday event.
The explosion blew out windows in a three block radius, leaving at least three buildings irreparably damaged and causing emergency workers to evacuate a six story apartment building that was buckling, police said. Pieces of broken glass littered streets and sidewalks. It was unclear how many residents had been evacuated.