North Carolina gas explosion kills one and injures 17, US
An explosion in downtown Durham, North Carolina, shortly after 10h00 on 10 April 2019, has killed one person and left 17 injured. It was caused, according to police, by a contractor who was drilling in the sidewalk and hit a two-inch gas line. At the time, fire fighters were evacuating workers from nearby buildings after receiving reports of a gas leak in the area less than an hour before the explosion. The wounded survivors of the 'catastrophic' gas leak in North Carolina on Wednesday were seen crawling away from the scene or being dragged out by emergency workers after the blast. The blast destroyed an entire building which houses a building technology company, a coffee shop and is next door to a psychiatrist's office.
It is not clear yet if the person who died was in that building or on the street. Several people in nearby offices were injured by flying glass and debris, the result of shattering windows. They reported feeling the ground shake and hearing a loud boom when the explosion happened. It is unconfirmed if the contractor is the person who died or why he was there. There are conflicting reports that he was boring to install a fibre-optics line or that he was investigating the leak.
A fire fighter was severely injured in the explosion which caused the ground to shake and windows on neighbouring buildings to shatter.
A gas leak was caused by a contractor who was boring under the sidewalk. Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos was one of the first responders after the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks and told reporters the building now looks like the Pentagon did after terrorists crashed a passenger jet into it. “He hit a two inch gas line which caused an explosion and also a partial building collapse,” Will Glenn, a spokesman for the Durham Police Department, said initially. He had been hired by the coffee shop, according to officials and had the correct permits in place.
The building is used partly by Main Street Clinical Associates and Dr Hollister Trott, a psychiatrist and Kaffeinate, a coffee shop but its lease is occupied by Prescient, a building technology company. It is unclear how many people were inside at the time. Prescient said none of its employees were hurt but that the building was 'a total loss'.
Five buildings were damaged, including the one that was totally destroyed. Residents described hearing a 'boom' and feeling the ground shake at the time of the blast.
The gas leak was reported at around 9h38. “While in the middle of the evacuation, there was an explosion that involved five buildings, including catastrophic damage to one,” Zoldos said.
“I've never seen anything like it before. I was sitting at the traffic light...and I smelled heavy, heavy gas. There were people in the building. I saw a business owner but a sign that said 'Business is closed for the day because of a gas leak." As soon as I went through the traffic light, the whole building exploded,' Robin Jarvi, an eyewitness, said.
Among the injured were employees at Duke University who were injured by shattered glass. The university does not have buildings in the area. “Several injuries of Duke employees from shattered glass have been reported and those individuals have been treated or transported for car,” a spokesman for the school said. The school district has closed schools near the area of the site.
Around 15 minutes before the explosions, employees in a building near the site were told to stay indoors while a leak was investigated. Jim Rogalski, 58, was working in his office across the street from the destroyed building when the explosion blew out the windows. At least four people working in cubicles by the windows suffered deep cuts, bloody head wounds and other injuries, he said.
“The first second was stunned silence, then lots of scream(ing) in the building. Several of us shouted, "Is anyone hurt?"” Rogalski told media. “The injured were quickly taken to an exit,” he added, saying “half the block was destroyed. There was lots of screaming,” Rogalski said. “It was pretty frantic there for a little bit until help showed up.”
Rogalski was seated one row away from the windows and wasn't hurt. “It was terrifying,” he said. "The whole building shook. Things started falling, ceiling tiles and structure and glass and debris. Lots and lots of dust. It was tough to see beyond 20 feet or so.'”
The explosion came about 15 minutes after the office's human resources manager sent an email warning that the city's fire department was investigating the smell of gas and that workers shouldn't leave the building through the front door, he said as a friend gave him a ride home to Chapel Hill.
Rogalski said he was forced to abandon his car in a nearby parking deck because authorities worried the blast may have weakened the structure.
Officials say they are confident everyone has been accounted for but they have not yet been able to search the site.
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Steve Schewel said the death toll could rise. “This is the kind of day that you never prepare for as a mayor, it's not something you necessarily think you'll ever have to face. What happened today, we've had a terrible tragedy. The loss of one life and there could be more,” he said.
Dominion Energy said in a press release on Wednesday that subsidiary company PSNC Energy had received a call about 'third-party' damage to a natural gas line in Durham. A PSNC worker responded and the explosion 'occurred shortly thereafter.' The company said additional crews arrived and shut off the gas.
Source: Daily Mail