Seattle explosion levels buildings, injures firefighters

SEATTLE -- A natural gas explosion rocked a Seattle neighbourhood early Wednesday, sending nine firefighters to the hospital and reducing businesses to rubble.

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Crews were responding to reports of a natural gas leak when the explosion happened along the main thoroughfare of the city's Greenwood neighbourhood, just north of downtown, Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Corey Orvold said.

As the neighbourhood hummed to life Wednesday morning, crews were still dousing an active flame with foam. Residents were checking out the damage and the rubble and glass that littered the streets was being swept up. One cafe damaged in the blast was pouring coffee for firefighters.

The businesses levelled were another coffee shop, a gyro shop and a mini mart.

Orvold said residents of an apartment building and another nearby residential structure were evacuated following the 1:45 a.m. blast.

There was no word of any other injuries or anyone missing. But Orvold said dogs were being used to go through the rubble just in case.

Harbourview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said eight firefighters and a battalion chief were treated at the facility.

She said five were treated and released early Wednesday and four others were in the process of being discharged.

"We didn't have anybody with burns, nothing life-threatening, nothing major" said Gregg, adding that some firefighters were sent to the hospital to be checked out because the blast was so powerful it pushed them back.

Gregg said eight men and one woman were treated.

A man who lives close to the blast site told KOMO-TV that the blast shook him out of bed.

"Thought it was an earthquake; way too loud to be a gunshot. So I got out of bed, checked on the family, and my family's good. So I went outside and saw smoke," Josh Coolbaugh said.

He said he called business owners in the area he knows to wake them up and tell them what happened.

The Fire Department said nearly 70 fire personnel were on the scene, including firefighters, commanders and medics.

Crews worked to shut off natural gas in neighbourhood. Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Christina Donegan said a survey team will then move in.

Donegan said their focus will be to determine if there was an issue with gas to the building or something inside the building.



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