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6 Die, 55 Hurt in Blast at Finland Mall

October 13, 2002|Matti Huuhtanen | Associated Press Writer

VANTAA, Finland -- An explosion collapsed part of a building at a mall filled with shoppers Friday evening, killing at least six people and injuring 55, officials said.

Police said they didn't know what had caused the blast at the mall in Vantaa, 10 miles north of Helsinki, but said they haven't ruled out anything, including a possible bombing.

The glass-enclosed mall was packed with up to 2,000 shoppers when the explosion erupted near a staircase between the second and third floors, officials said.

"Glass fell down from the third floor, and children and parents were in total panic when they saw the injured people," shopper Orvokki Neuvonen said. "Mothers were screaming. Among the shattered glass were [the] injured and unconscious."

The injured, including 12 who were seriously hurt, were rushed to several nearby hospitals.

"This is the most serious accident since World War II in [the] Helsinki [region]," said Eero Hirvensalo, a physician at Helsinki University Central Hospital.

Initially, officials suspected that the explosion was caused by gas cylinders. But mall officials later said it was unlikely that any were at the site.

Police bomb squads with sniffer dogs were surveying the area, which was expected to be cordoned off for several days.

"We are talking to lots of people and we are not ruling out anything at the moment," Deputy Chief Inspector Seppo Kujala of the Vantaa police said when asked if a bomb could have caused the blast. He said no one had been detained.

Kujala said authorities found "lots of metal debris" at the site, but would not speculate if it was part of an explosive.

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