July 31, 2010 in Nation/World

In brief: Deadly explosion destroys building

Associated Press photo

Members of the Los Angeles Fire Department survey damage after a suspected natural gas explosion at a welding shop collapsed part of the building Friday.
(Full-size photo)

LOS ANGELES – A deadly gas explosion obliterated an industrial building with such violent force Friday that a worker was hurled into the street, car windows were shattered and a survivor had his hair singed.

One man died and another was critically injured in the blast that was blamed on a gas line that had been tampered with and rerouted.

Jonathan Apol, 20, a welder at a neighboring business, ran outside and saw the building engulfed in flames.

“It sounded like a plane had crashed in there,” Apol said. “It was like a bang, then two seconds later, two more bangs.”

The natural gas supply had been disconnected Thursday because the business was behind on its payments, Southern California Gas Co. spokesman Dennis Lord said. To keep the gas flowing, someone had rerouted a pipe around the meter and a regulator designed to reduce gas pressure to safe levels.

BEIRUT, Lebanon – The leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have issued a joint statement pledging solidarity during a time of heightened tensions in Beirut.

Syrian President Bashar Assad and Saudi King Abdullah arrived in Lebanon on Friday for a summit. They discussed upcoming indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

A statement released after the one-day summit urged Arab unity and encouraged all parties to put Lebanon’s interests above all else and to refrain from violence.

Many fear an outbreak of new violence between Lebanon’s Shiite and Sunni communities if the international tribunal investigating Hariri’s death implicates the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is Syria’s main ally in Lebanon.

Flights canceled when pilots quit

MANILA, Philippines – National air carrier Philippine Airlines had to cancel at least five flights today after several Airbus A320 pilots decamped for jobs abroad.

Brain drain – the decamping of professionals, including teachers and nurses, for better jobs abroad – has long plagued the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

PAL spokesman Jonathan Gesmundo went on TV and radio stations to apologize to the public for the cancellations, which he said were caused by the sudden departure of nearly a dozen pilots for better-paying jobs overseas.

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