MIAMI (AFP, NYTIMES) – A powerful explosion from a suspected gas leak ripped through a shopping mall in Florida on Saturday (July 6), injuring up to 20 people, the fire department said.
Two of those were in serious condition after the blast in the town of Plantation in south Florida.
Photos on US news outlets showed a large field of debris strewn across the parking lot of the Fountains Plaza shopping centre, with major damage in particular to an LA Fitness gym.
Between 15 and 20 people were injured, deputy fire chief Joel Gordon told reporters.
His department initially called it a gas explosion and Gordon said ruptured gas lines were found in the debris, but that the cause of the blast has not been confirmed.
No one has been reported missing.
“As bad it was, it could have been a lot worse,” Gordon said.
A major avenue running past the mall was shut down.
Plantation is about 50km north of Miami.
Daniel Hubert, 20, had been working out at the fitness centre when he said he felt the building shake moments before he heard the explosion.
“A lot of the ceiling started to fall and the weights were shaking from the shock of the explosion,” Hubert said.
“Everyone was running around. It was a lot of chaos.”
As many as 300 people had started running for the emergency exits, he said.
“When I was leaving, the police were telling everyone to vacate the premises,” Hubert added.
“My truck windshield was cracked, and the explosion literally opened my truck door. A lot of cars were totalled.”
Hubert said that about half the LA Fitness centre’s exterior was destroyed and that the restaurant across from it was severely damaged. The only thing that remained standing were the walls, he said.
“I had friends 2 to 3 miles away, and they said they thought there was an earthquake,” Hubert said.
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