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Officer is hurt by underground blast

January 22, 2008|Paloma Esquivel | Times Staff Writer

An LAPD officer was injured slightly by an underground explosion that sent two manhole covers into the air in downtown L.A. on Monday.

The explosion, which was apparently triggered by a short-circuit in an electrical vault under the street, occurred just after 2 p.m. in Little Tokyo near a shopping center and two apartment complexes.

Officer Craig Allen, 34, was responding to reports of smoke coming from a manhole cover near the intersection of 3rd and Alameda streets, authorities said. Allen saw the smoke, got out of his patrol car and prepared to stop traffic when the explosion echoed through the neighborhood.

Nearby workers said the blast sounded like "fireworks."

"We thought maybe they were filming a movie out here, but then we saw the police and firetrucks," said Fernando Pena, 36, who works across the street.

Allen was taken to a hospital as a precaution, but his injuries, caused by the rush of air from the blast, were minor, said Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Department of Water and Power officials were trying to determine the cause of the explosion.

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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