Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blast kills 2, crumples area housing

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INDIANAPOLIS -- A massive explosion sparked a huge fire and killed two people in an Indianapolis neighbourhood where about three dozen homes were damaged or destroyed, authorities said Sunday. The powerful nighttime blast shattered windows, crumpled walls and could be felt at least five kilometres away.

Aerial photographs of the once-tidy neighbourhood of one- and two-storey homes showed at least two had been reduced to blackened pits of debris. Other homes had sections gutted by fire or holes in their roofs or exterior walls. Siding dangled from the outside of other homes, and crumpled garage doors hung from houses nearby. Pieces of wood and other building materials littered the street and surrounding properties.

It wasn't clear what caused the blast about 11 p.m. Saturday. Firefighters responding to a call about a single house fire were surprised by a much bigger blaze. The fire centred on four homes, two that were levelled and two others that only had the frames standing by the time the flames were extinguished, Deputy Chief Kenny Bacon said.

The damage extended two blocks in every direction, he said, and fire officials didn't initially realize the extent of it in the darkness. City and fire officials said Sunday afternoon about two dozen homes were uninhabitable and would have to be torn down. Several more had severe damage but could be fixed.

Residents described a loud boom that shook their homes, blew out windows and collapsed ceilings. They rushed outside to find a chaotic scene with flames rising against the Indianapolis skyline to the north.

Bryan and Trina McClellan were at home with their 23-year-old son Eric when the shock wave from the blast a block away shook their home. It knocked out the windows along one side of their house, and their first instinct was to check on their grandchildren, two toddlers who were in the basement. One held his ears and said, "Loud noise, loud noise."

Eric McClellan said he ran to the scene.

"Somebody was trapped inside one of the houses, and the firefighters were trying to get to him. I don't know if he survived," he said, adding firefighters ordered him to leave the area.

Along with the two people killed, seven people were taken to a hospital with injuries, Bacon said. Everyone else was accounted for, he said.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2012 A8

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