November 23, 2012 in Nation/World

Gas blast levels Mass. buildings; at least 18 hurt

Susan Haigh Associated Press
 

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A natural gas explosion in one of New England’s biggest cities on Friday destroyed two buildings, including one housing a strip club, and damaged others beyond repair but didn’t kill anyone, authorities said.

Firefighters, police officers and gas company workers in the area because of an earlier gas leak and odor report were among more than a dozen people injured, authorities said.

“This is a miracle on Worthington Street that no one was killed,” Lt. Gov. Tim Murray said at a press conference.

The explosion in a downtown area of Springfield, 90 miles west of Boston, blew out all windows in a three-block radius, leaving three more buildings irreparably damaged and prompting emergency workers to evacuate a six-story apartment building that was buckling.

Police Sgt. John Delaney marveled at the destruction at the blast’s epicenter, where a multistory building was leveled.

“It looks like there was a missile strike here,” he said.

Officials at two nearby hospitals said at least 18 victims were transported there with injuries but none was critical.

Firefighters responded to the scene at 4:20 p.m. and were investigating the gas leak when the blast happened shortly after 5 p.m. The cause of the explosion hadn’t been identified but was under investigation, they said.

Springfield, which has about 150,000 residents, is the largest city in western Massachusetts. It’s known as the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is not in the vicinity of the blast.

The explosion, in an area of downtown Springfield with commercial properties and residences, destroyed a building that housed a Scores Gentlemen’s Club.

Area resident Wayne Davis said he felt his apartment building shake a block away.

“I was laying down in bed, and I started feeling the building shaking and creaking,” he said.

The Navy veteran said the boom from the explosion was louder than anything he’d ever heard, including the sound of a jet landing on an aircraft carrier.

The blast was so loud it was heard for miles around. Video from WWLP-TV showed the moment of the explosion, with smoke billowing into the air above the neighborhood.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said it was through “God’s mercy” that nobody had been reported killed in the explosion.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the individuals that have been injured and the people who have been displaced,” he said, adding that emergency shelter was being set up for those unable to go home.

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Associated Press writers Bridget Murphy and Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this story.

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