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Gas blast levels Mass. strip club; 18 people hurt

  • Associated Press
  • Published Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, at 10:13 p.m.

A natural gas explosion in one of New England’s biggest cities on Friday leveled a strip club and heavily damaged a dozen other buildings but didn’t kill anyone, authorities said.

The 18 people injured in the blast included firefighters, police officers and gas company workers in the area because of an earlier gas leak and odor report, 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 downtown Springfield, 90 miles west of Boston, blew out all windows in a three-block radius, leaving three buildings irreparably damaged and prompting emergency workers to evacuate a six-story apartment building that was buckling, police said.

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

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

The victims were taken to two hospitals in the city. None of their injuries was considered life-threatening, officials said. Those hurt were nine firefighters, two police officers, four Columbia Gas of Massachusetts workers, two civilians and another city employee.

Firefighters responded at 4:20 p.m. and were investigating the gas leak when the blast happened about one hour later. The cause of the explosion hadn’t been identified but was under investigation, they said.

The explosion happened in an area with commercial properties and residences. Wayne Davis, who lives about a block away from the destroyed building, said he felt his apartment shake.

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

The Navy veteran said the boom 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 and in several neighboring communities. 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.

“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.

An official of the gas company said there were no signs of any additional gas leaks in the area but crews would monitor the area closely over the next two days.

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