Eighteen people are in the hospital after a massive gas explosion in downtown Springfield that leveled two buildings and damaged a dozen others.
Nine Springfield firefighters, two Springfield police officers, one sewer worker, two civilians, and two Columbia Gas Company workers are injured. There are no fatalities, and none of the injuries are thought to be life threatening.
The explosion happened around 5:30 p.m. inside Scores Gentlemen's Club on Worthington Street. Firefighters and Columbia Gas Company workers were investigating a call for an odor of gas in the area.
Columbia Gas is currently monitoring levels of natural gas in the downtown area, which is still shut down. The gas company is still trying to figure out where the exact leak was.
The entire downtown entertainment district is shut down and will be shut down through the night, according to Mayor Domenic Sarno.
Buildings within a two to three block radius had some windows blown out. Demolition contractors have been called in to inspect buildings in the blast zone.
A perimeter has been established around the blast zone, and Springfield Police anti-looting details are patrolling the area. Columbia Gas says it will continue to monitor the area for elevated gas readings. They also intend to drill holes in streets to look for underground gas.
The blast was felt from as far away as Hardwick, 30 miles northeast of the city.
A shelter has been opened at Central High School for residents who live in downtown apartments and were evacuated.
The American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter sent a crew of 14 to assist. The team will work out of the Worthington Street firehouse to support first responders.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has contacted FEMA and the Small Business Administration to get federal assistance.
Anyone who had damage to their building or residence is asked to call 787-6031 or 787-6032 after 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
Stay with CBS 3 for the latest on this developing story.
Copyright 2012 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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