Gas explosion levels Maryland shopping mall, US
A gas explosion destroyed portions of a business complex Sunday morning, 25 August 2019, in Columbia, Maryland. According to fire officials, the call for a gas leak came in around 7h30 in the 8800 block of Stanford Boulevard. Officials said the gas explosion happened 30 minutes later. "It was so powerful it could be heard in communities many miles away," Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue battalion chief, Stephen Hardesty, said the building is at risk of collapsing. "We're working with some building inspectors and the property manager to figure out what are next steps are to secure the building," Hardesty said. None of the business were open and the area was evacuated before the explosion happened, officials said. There are no injuries to report.
Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) crews completed safety inspections of the area gas mains and surrounding buildings and have not found any issues with the gas equipment. They're still working to figure out exactly what caused the explosion.
"As they responded to multiple reports of hissing sounds coming from a large crack in the parking lot of the building, they promptly assessed the situation, worked to ensure the buildings were not occupied and that evacuations were not necessary and set up a perimeter. Fortunately, because of their actions and because this happened on a Sunday morning when no one was inside the building, there are no reported injuries at this time," Ball said in a statement.
Fire officials said there was a widespread power outage in the Stanford Boulevard and McGaw Road areas. Area businesses were affected, officials said.
Howard County police said Stanford Boulevard was closed at McGaw Road as fire crews and Baltimore Gas and Electric crews worked at the scene.
BGE released a statement on Sunday morning on the gas explosion: "BGE received a gas odour call from the Howard County Fire Department this morning for the 8800 block of Stanford Blvd. While our crew member was on site, an explosion occurred. BGE crews have turned off gas service and are currently working closely with the fire department. Once it is safe to do so, BGE will investigate the cause of the incident."
BGE released another statement on Sunday evening, saying, "We have completed safety inspections of the area gas mains and surrounding buildings and have not found any issues with the gas equipment. Gas and electric service to the building remain off. Additionally, our records do not indicate any recent reports of gas odours from the location or in the past year.
"As recently as July 2019, we performed a scheduled inspection of the gas main and equipment serving this area and found no issues. We are continuing to work closely with investigators to understand the cause of the incident.
"Our thanks go to the prompt and skilled response by the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services and responding BGE crew members who moved quickly to clear the area to a safe distance and terminate gas and electric service. Their actions and the fortunate early morning weekend timing prevented a very serious incident from becoming worse.
"As always, immediate reporting of any gas odours or issues is critical to public safety. If you suspect a gas leak or have any gas concerns where you live or work, get to a safe location and report it to BGE immediately by calling 877-778-7798 or by calling 911. BGE will respond 24 hours a day to investigate and make the situation safe. For additional information about gas safety and what to do in a gas emergency visit BGE.com/gassafety."
"I have mobilised our team from the Howard County Economic Development Authority to assist those businesses and workers who may find themselves displaced by this event. We will do everything possible to minimise the impact of this explosion those who are affected by it," Ball said in a statement.
"This massive explosion was felt in many of the surrounding communities, a shock to families across the area. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported so far. We are grateful to Howard County first responders for being on the scene in minutes. Our Maryland Joint Operations Centre and State Fire Marshal have offered their full support and assistance as we work to determine the cause of this explosion," Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement.