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Gas Worker's Blunder Caused Strip Club Blast
An explosion which flattened a strip club in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been blamed on a gas worker who accidentally pierced a high-pressure pipeline while looking for a leak.
The blast levelled the Scores Gentlemen's Club on Friday evening, and blew out the windows of dozens more buildings up to three blocks away.
Eighteen people were hurt. Most of the injured were part of a group of gas workers, firefighters and police officers who ducked for cover behind a lorry just before the blast.
Officials said it was a miracle no one was killed.
State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan has confirmed the explosion was caused by "human error".
He said a Columbia Gas company worker had been responding to reports of a gas leak when he damaged the underground pipe with a metal probe.
A flood of gas then built up in a building that housed the strip club, and a spark triggered the blast, Mr Coan said.
Preliminary reports show that the blast damaged 42 nearby buildings and 115 residential units.
Three buildings were immediately condemned, while 24 others will need additional inspections by structural engineers to determine whether they are safe.
The building that housed the Scores Gentleman's Club was completely destroyed and a children's day care centre next door was heavily damaged.
Several buildings were evacuated after the gas pipe was ruptured.
Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant has praised the actions of firefighters.
"The firefighters did an excellent job evacuating the area which certainly prevented additional civilian injuries and saved many lives," he said.
Columbia Gas said it planned to open a claims centre for residents and businesses affected by the explosion.
Company officials have been co-operating with investigators and have determined there are no more gas leaks in the area.
Springfield, which is 90 miles (145km) west of Boston and has about 150,000 residents, is the largest city in western Massachusetts.
The city is still recovering from a tornado that caused extensive damage in June 2011.