Friday, 10 September 2010

Six people killed and more than 50 buildings destroyed after gas explosion tears through San Francisco suburb

By Mail Foreign Service

Fireball: A plume of flame rises from a San Francisco suburb after a gas explosion killed one person and injured 25

A natural gas pipeline explosion killed six people and torched more than 50 buildings after it tore through a San Francisco suburb last night,

Around 39 people were injured by the blast and flames were visible several miles away from San Francisco International Airport.

San Bruno Fire Captain Charlie Barringer told the L.A. Times: 'I thought a 747 had landed on us. It shook our station right to its foundation.'

Danger: Flames from the blast were visible miles away at San Francisco International Airport

Explosion: Four homes are virtually burned to the ground after a gas pipe blast in San Francisco

Inferno: 53 buildings have been destroyed by the explosion or scores of fires triggered by burning debris

Kelly Huston, an assistant secretary with the California Emergency Management Agency, told KTLA TV: 'We have confirmed that there are 53 structures, those are mostly homes, that were lost, about 120 damaged.' The injured people have been taken to hospitals with special burn treatment units.

Most of the burned buildings were homes in a densely populated residential area, officials said.

The gas line belongs to the northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
A statement from the company said: 'Though a cause has yet to be determined, we know that a PG&E transmission line was ruptured.

'If it is ultimately determined that we were responsible for the cause of the incident, we will take accountability.'

Devastation: Scores of homes have been totally destroyed by the force of the explosion or subsequent fires

Damage: Smoke continues to rise near the remnants of a chimney

Resident Connie Bushman returned home to find her block was on fire. She said she ran into her house looking for her 80-year-old father, but could not find him.

'I don't know where my father is, I don't know where my husband is, I don't know where to go,' she said.

Judy and Frank Serrsseque managed to escape the flames with a makeshift wagon carrying important documents, medication and their three cats.

Mrs Serrsseque said she heard the blast and saw the flames were being blown towards their home.

'We got everything together, and we just got out. Mostly we're wondering if we have a house to go back to.'

Gutted: The remains of two burnt out cars after the gas explosion triggered massive fires

All-nighter: Four firefighters tackle one of the many blazes in the suburb

Engulfed: Firefighters have so far managed to contain around 50 per cent of the blaze

Blast: A police officer rescues a pet dog from the San Bruno suburb. Injured people have been taken to burn units in nearby hospitals

Battle: A helicopter drops water on the massive blaze triggered by the gas explosion and, right, a police officer retreats from the intensity of the flames

Sergio Campos, 21, said he was on his way to class at Skyline College when he saw the fire and pulled over. Even from a distance, the blaze 'sounded like a big, ongoing roar,' he said.

'A lot of us were confused because we didn't know if it was a natural explosion or an airplane crash,' he told CNN.

The explosion of the high-pressure gas line occurred during rush hour at around 6pm local time.

Water-dropping aircraft have assisted up to 200 firefighters in tackling the blaze, which was spread quickly through high winds.

Broken water lines have hampered the effort after the explosion destroyed hydrants near the blast scene.

Dennis Haag, chief of San Bruno Fire Department, said: 'The fire is being contained at this point... it is around 50 per cent contained.'

Television footage showed a massive fireball and flames shooting skywards.

People living in the area said they thought the loud boom caused by the blast was the result of an earthquake or a plane crash.

Around 100 people have spent the night at an evacuation centre.

California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, serving as acting governor while Arnold Schwarzenegger is on a trade mission to Asia, has declared a state of emergency to free up state assistance for local government.

Ferocity: This firefighter takes a step back as homes in San Bruno burn behind him

Operation: Firefighters continue to battle the blaze caused by the explosion

Burning: A plume of fire and smoke covers the San Bruno suburb as the flames were fanned by high winds

Torched: It is unclear what caused the explosion, but Pacific Gas & Electric Co said one of its pipes was ruptured

source: dailymail

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