Six dead, many injured as natural gas explosion devastates CA neighborhoodSeptember 10th, 2010 - 8:03 pm ICT by BNO News
SAN FRANCISCO (BNO NEWS) — A massive natural gas explosion rocked a neighborhood in the city of San Bruno in central California on early Thursday evening, killing at least six people and injuring scores of others, officials said.
A large fireball was seen by numerous witnesses around 6 p.m. PDT, setting dozens of homes on fire. Officials said the blaze was caused by a natural gas explosion, not a plane crash as initially feared as the scene is close to San Francisco International Airport.
First responders via emergency scanners initially said a ‘large commercial aircraft’ had crashed in the area, but they later said the cause appeared to be a natural gas explosion and not a plane crash.
Both San Francisco International Airport as well as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Ian Gregor confirmed no plane had gone down in the neighborhood.
Scores of emergency responders were on the scene of the disaster to battle the huge six-alarm blaze, but few details were immediately available on casualties. At least two people were found dead on the scene, while scores of others were taken to area hospitals.
Karl Sonkin, a spokesman for South San Francisco Medical Center, said it received a total of fifteen patients. Nine of them were treated, released and sent home while two others were still being evaluated. The other four were sent to a burn unit at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, where a spokeswoman confirmed three of them were in a critical but stable condition. The fourth was in a stable condition.
A spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital said it received five patients - three in a critical condition, one in a serious condition and one in a ‘good’ condition. Additionally, a spokeswoman for Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, several miles from the scene, said that five people with minor injuries arrived at the hospital by themselves.
First responders at the scene said one person was found deceased on a sidewalk, while five more bodies were found inside the remains of burned down homes. It was not immediately clear how many people could still be missing.
In addition to the civilian casualties, three firefighters were also injured, although it was not immediately clear to which hospital they were transported.
The blast was so strong that residents miles away were able to hear and feel the explosion. “We’re fine. We heard the blast, and we can see the fire,” a resident, who lives about two miles from the scene, told BNO News. “We’re told it’s a gas pump explosion by firefighters going by.”
Fire officials said at least 53 homes had been ’severely damaged’ or destroyed, while 120 others sustained less severe fire damage. More than 100 residents had been evacuated to shelters.
Few details were immediately available about what may have caused the natural gas explosion. “Though a cause has yet to be determined, we know that a PG&E gas transmission line was ruptured,” a statement from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) said. “The priority right now is to help make the area safe. We have crews on the scene and are working with emergency officials.”
“If it is ultimately determined that we were responsible for the cause of the incident, we will take accountability.,” the company added as speculation emerged that residents had smelled a strange odor in the area for days.
Joseph Schadler, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), said their Joint Terrorism Task Force had been sent to the scene “just in case.” Terrorism, however, did not appear to have been involved.
Acting California Governor Abel Maldonado commended the ’swift and courageous response’ of emergency responders and declared a state of emergency for San Mateo County. “I commend the swift and courageous response of California’s brave emergency personnel and stand ready to expedite any recovery resources that are needed,” he said. “I will be closely monitoring the situation with the California Emergency Management Agency and will ensure a swift investigation begins to determine the causes.”
Maldonado takes over as Acting Governor when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of the state. Schwarzenegger was flying over Alaska when the explosion happened, and did not appear to have been informed about the incident.
“Over Anchorage, AK,” Schwarzenegger wrote on his Twitter account along with a picture of him in his plane. “Looking everywhere but can’t see Russia from here. Will keep you updated as search continues,” he joked.
Maldonado, in his proclamation of a state of emergency, said the fire which continued to burn on early Friday threatened numerous other structures, causing evacuations of residents and the opening of emergency shelters.
In addition to the state of emergency proclaimed by Maldonado, San Bruno officials also declared a local disaster.
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