Eighteen people were injured and many more narrowly escaped harm in a natural gas explosion in Springfield, Mass., that damaged 42 buildings, according to a report by CBS News.
A nightclub was flattened and a day care center was heavily damaged in the massive blast that left a large hole in the ground where a multistory brick building was destroyed. "Officials already had evacuated part of the entertainment district after responding to a gas leak and odor reported about an hour before the explosion," CBS reported. "Gas workers venting a gas leak got indications that the building was about to explode and they ducked for cover behind a utility truck – along with firefighters and police officers – just before the blast, said Mark McDonald, president of the New England Gas Workers Association. Most of the injured were in that group, and the truck that saved their lives was essentially demolished, he said."
"It really is a miracle and it's an example of our public safety officials, each and every day, putting themselves in harm's way, taking what could have been considered a very routine call of an odor of gas, but they took the proper precautions," State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan told CBS. "And thanks to God that they did."
The explosion blew out windows in a three-block radius, leaving at least three buildings irreparably damaged and causing emergency workers to evacuate a six-story apartment building that was buckling, police told CBS. Pieces of broken glass littered streets and sidewalks.
Omar Fermin, manager of the Punta Cana Restaurant two blocks from the explosion site, found the floor-to-ceiling windows blasted out when he came to check on the property the next morning, according to CBS. "It looks like an earthquake hit," Fermin told the network.
Preliminary reports show the blast damaged 42 buildings housing 115 residential units, said Thomas Walsh, spokesman for the City of Springfield. Three buildings were immediately condemned, and 24 others require additional inspections by structural engineers to determine whether they are safe, Walsh said.
The victims were taken to two hospitals in the city, CBS reported. Those injured were nine firefighters, two police officers, four Columbia Gas workers, two civilians and another city employee.
The wreckage in Springfield "is not an unfamiliar scene," according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor. "An intentional gas leak is a prime suspect in a massive explosion that killed two and ruined homes in an Indianapolis neighborhood earlier this month. In October, a natural gas explosion destroyed a home in Castle Rock, Colo., and sent a family of five to the hospital. These are dramatic examples of what the pipeline industry calls 'significant pipeline incidents,' which are usually lower-level accidents that nevertheless happen with alarming frequency. Every four days, the United States experiences three such incidents."
The damage from thee incidents is extensive, according to the newspaper. "Since 1992, there have been 5,643 events that have resulted in fatalities, hospitalization, at least $50,000 in property damage, the excessive release of liquids, or unintentional fire or explosion, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reports. In total, the federal agency calculates, significant pipeline incidents have cost 373 human lives and more than $6 billion in property damage over the past 20 years."
What's worse, such problems appear to be increasing, according to the Monitor. The 290 incidents that occurred last year represent an 8 percent increase over 2010, and significant incidents are up by nearly a quarter from a decade ago.
To read the CBS News article, click here.
To read the Christian Science Monitor story, click here.