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Buildings condemned, hundreds displaced in Massachusetts blast

November 24, 2012|By Joseph Serna

A natural gas explosion in Springfield, Mass., that blew up a strip club Friday evening also damaged 42 other buildings and displaced hundreds of people, early assessments of the damage show.

In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city had begun offering housing assistance to residents who hadn’t been able to return to their apartments because their buildings had been damaged or destroyed.

The explosion, which occurred at 5:25 p.m. at Scores Gentlemen’s Club in downtown Springfield, blew out windows for three blocks and injured 19 people, including a dozen firefighters who were at the scene.

No fatalities have been reported and all the firefighters have been treated and released from the hospital.

Sarno told a local TV station it was a “miracle on Worthington Street” that no one was killed.

Most of the others injured were gas and city utility workers who were in the area responding to a report of a gas leak.

A 15-block area around the blast site was cordoned off Saturday. City crews were going building to building checking for damage, and Columbia Gas of Massachusetts workers were checking for leaks.

Gas had been found underground, company spokeswoman Sheila Doiron said, but not at alarming levels and not attributable to Friday night’s blast.

“The natural gas system is intact,” Doiron said. “We consider it safe and secure.”

The company will have to wait for the area to be cleared before it can excavate the 50- to 75-foot gas line linked to Scores.

The cause of the leak and how it ignited were still under investigation Saturday, fire department officials said.

The gas odor was reported at about 4:20 p.m., and soon afterward, Scores and nearby buildings were evacuated, fire department spokesman Dennis Leger said. The gas was shut off at 5:05 p.m., 25 minutes before the explosion.

“I was on scene last night. It almost looked like a missile hit some of these buildings,” Sarno spokesman Tom Walsh told the Los Angeles Times. “There was glass strewn across the street, bricks everywhere. I even saw a stripper shoe.”

About 115 apartment units, many of them in a building near the blast,  were condemned Saturday. City officials could not provide a damage estimate Saturday afternoon.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @josephserna

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