World

Florida: 21 hurt in shopping plaza Massive explosion Gas lines found ruptured

Florida: 21 hurt in shopping plaza Massive explosion Gas lines found ruptured: On Saturday, a vacant pizza restaurant exploded in a thundering roar at a South Florida shopping plaza that injured more than 20 people and throwing large chunks of concrete through the air. The blast flung debris widely along a busy road in Plantation in the west of Fort Lauderdale, destroying the restaurant and damaging nearby businesses and cars. Though ruptured gas lines were found by firefighters afterward according to the authorities, it would be too early to determine a cause.

Alex Carver, a worker at a deli across the street from the explosion said, “We thought it was thunder at first, and then we felt the building shake and things started falling. I looked outside and it was almost like the world was ending. It was nuts, man. It was crazy.”

Large pieces of concrete hurled up to 50 yards (45 meters) away and sent pieces of metal scattering as far as 100 yards (90 meters) across the street due to the explosion. Carver said two of his co-workers’ cars were destroyed.

Police Sgt. Jessica Ryan said that at least 21 people were injured though none of the injuries was life-threatening

The explosion caused the demolition of the buildings that left only part of its metal frame. The restaurant, called PizzaFire, had been out of business for several months. The blast also blew out the windows of a popular fitness club next door at the shopping plaza in Broward County.

Jesse Walaschek had just left the fitness club with his wife and three children, ages 4, 6 and 8. They were parked near the restaurant and had just driven about 50 yards (45 meters) away when they heard the blast.

He said, “It was a massive explosion like I have never experienced. Everything just stopped. You didn’t see anybody. I just wanted to get these guys safe,” he said, pointing to his children. “If this had happened a minute before when we were getting the kids in the car, it would have been really bad.”

Dozens of firefighters came to the spot and could be seen picking through the rubble with dogs sniffing through the debris to make sure people weren’t trapped underneath. There were no known fatalities immediately after the explosion.

Fire department Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said there were ruptured gas lines when firefighters arrived, but he couldn’t say for certain that it was a gas explosion. He said, “At this point, nobody was killed. Thank goodness for that. As bad as it is, it could have been a lot worse.”