The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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November 24, 2012

Gas blast levels Mass. strip club; 18 people hurt

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A natural gas explosion in one of New England's biggest cities on Friday leveled a strip club with a boom heard for miles and heavily damaged a dozen other buildings but didn't kill anyone, authorities said.

Firefighters, police officers and gas company workers in the area because of an earlier gas leak and odor report were among the 18 people injured in the blast, authorities said.

"This is a miracle on Worthington Street that no one was killed," Lt. Gov. Tim Murray said at a press conference.

The explosion in Springfield, 90 miles west of Boston, blew out all windows in a three-block radius, leaving three buildings irreparably damaged and prompting emergency workers to evacuate a six-story apartment building that was buckling, police said.

Police Sgt. John Delaney marveled at the destruction at the blast's epicenter, where a multistory building housing a Scores Gentleman's Club, evacuated earlier because of the gas leak, was leveled.

"It looks like there was a missile strike here," he said.

The victims were taken to two hospitals in the city. None of their injuries was considered life-threatening, officials said. Those hurt were nine firefighters, two police officers, four Columbia Gas of Massachusetts workers, two civilians and another city employee.

Firefighters responded to the scene at 4:20 p.m. and were investigating the gas leak when the blast happened about one hour later. The cause of the explosion hadn't been identified but was under investigation, they said.

Springfield, which has about 150,000 residents, is the largest city in western Massachusetts. It's known as the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is not in the vicinity of the blast.

The city has been rebuilding from damage it sustained in a June 2011 tornado.

The explosion happened in an area of downtown Springfield with commercial properties and residences. Area resident Wayne Davis, who lives about a block away from the destroyed strip club building, said he felt his apartment shake.

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