Monday, December 11, 2017

Gas blast rocks Mass. city

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A natural gas explosion in one of New England's biggest cities on Friday injured 18 people, leveled a strip club with a boom heard for miles and damaged a dozen other buildings, authorities said.

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

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

The explosion in 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. 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 to the scene 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.

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 city has been rebuilding from damage from a 2011 tornado.

The explosion happened in an area of downtown Springfield with commercial properties and residences. Wayne Davis, who lives about a block away from the destroyed strip club, 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 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 in several neighboring communities for miles around.

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