February 10, 2011 by staff
Allentown Pa, (CP) – A natural gas explosion rocked a downtown area during the night, leveling two houses and spawning fires that burned for hours in an entire row of houses nearby. One person was killed and at least five others were missing Thursday.
The victim was found in a townhouse with two floors in a residential area of downtown that has exploded on 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, Police Chief Roger MacClean said. A couple of 70 years lived in the house, but the condition of the body prevented positive identification, Fire Chief Robert Scheirer said.
The cause of the explosion was unclear. The fire was extinguished early Thursday, delayed by the difficulty of digging through the layers of packed snow and ice to a fault line underground gas that fueled the flames, Scheirer said. Approximately 500 600 people who were evacuated were allowed to return home.
Scheirer predicts eight houses were lost and 16 others damaged.
The explosion was so powerful that it sent a sail flat-screen computer at the back of Antonio Arroyo, whose house was at the opposite end of the line of the explosion.
“I thought we were under attack,” he recalled in a shelter where some 250 people took refuge in the hours after the explosion.
Arroyo and his wife, Jill, both 43, have lost their homes in the fire.
Antonio said he ran outside and saw that a house had been razed, a ball of fire that rages in the place where it once stood.
“What I saw, I could not believe,” said Arroyo, a community volunteers.
He and his wife, a nurse, have fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs. They planned to return to the daylight to see what they could save. Jill Arroyo broke into tears when she recalled memories of his son’s sport – probably lost in the fire – including DVD of his football high school.
“DVDs are gone. All his trophies are gone. All gone,” she sobbed as her husband comforted her.
Alesk Tricia, who lives a few blocks away, the explosion has his nerves on edge.
“I was reading a book in the lounge and it felt like a giant kick in the house. He shook everyone. Everything shook, “she said. “I checked the stove and everything, (to) make sure everything is off.”
Jason Soke watched college basketball when he heard and felt the explosion. It shook the windows. He went to the third floor and looked out and saw flames and smoke.
“Your sense of gender is stunned,” he said. “It puts you on the edge.”
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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