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Explosion at Olympic Park

(ran after plate change)

A massive explosion rocked Centennial Olympic Park early today, injuring hundreds of people.

A spokeswoman for the Atlanta Fire Department, who would not give her name, said that 150 to 200 people were injured about 1:15 a.m. when the explosion struck a tower near a stage where thousands of people were watching a concert.

There was no immediate word on the cause of the blast, and there were no immediate reports of any fatalities in the explosion that rocked neighboring buildings and could be heard throughout the downtown area, where thousands of people have gathered every night since the Olympic Games began July 19.

"I felt the ground shake," said Desmond Edwards, an Atlanta schoolteacher who witnessed the blast. "I think one lady was definitely dead. She wasn't moving.

"Some people looked really messed up. There were rivers of blood."

A sea of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars moved into the area trying to reach the injured, and at least 25 ambulances sped away from the scene, sirens wailing, taking the injured to nearby hospitals.

"I thought it was fireworks, like a big boom, and I saw three guys lying in the street," said Terry Tyson, who witnessed the explosion. "They all had leg injuries. Blood was running down the street. It was horrible."

Snenetricus Warford said the explosion appeared to come from a garbage can.

"I looked up, there was fire and smoke going up. People were there. It blew them over. Some people got hit, some people didn't get hit.

"People were dancing, watching the concert, having a good time and it went up," she said. "I saw flames."

The tower, apparently used for lighting and sound at the main concert stage in the park, was still standing after the blast, but debris littered the base of the structure.

Tom Williams was standing just across the street when he heard the tower "blow up."

"I was walking along and three people were lying in the street," he said. "I didn't see any fire, just smoke."

Police and other security officers swarmed through the streets trying to clear the area, forcing people away from the park which sits at the hub of the Olympic Games. Three major sports arenas are adjacent to the park, though sports competition had ended when the explosion occurred.

The park was packed with people, many of whom ran through the streets in tears. Hospitals, meanwhile, braced to treat the injured.

"I know we've been told we'll been getting some injured people and to be prepared to accept them," said Shirley Hawkins, spokesman for Piedmont Hospital. "I don't know how many, but we got a call from the fire department that ambulances are on the way with injured people."

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