Boston, MA- Boston Herald- A natural gas explosion sent flames shooting through a Northeastern University freshman dormitory on Wednesday, injuring seven people and severely damaging the six-story brick building.
Victims, among them three students, were being treated at area hospitals for broken bones, cuts and burns, officials said. Also injured were a faculty member, staff and a utility worker.
A “utility corridor” of water, gas, electric and telephone lines was being replaced this week at Kerr Hall, university spokeswoman Laura Shea said. KeySpan was doing work on the gas line on before the explosion Wednesday, she said.
Boston Fire officials said the 1:30 p.m. explosion likely was caused by a gas leak in the basement-level boiler room of the dorm, in the city’s Fenway neighborhood.
“Gas leaked into the building, found an ignition source, and ignited,” Deputy Chief Kevin MacCurtain said.
A portion of the first floor collapsed, MacCurtain said.
A KeySpan spokesman did not immediately return a call to comment.
“One person reported he was thrown 10 feet into the air” before he was hit and injured by a falling table, said Richard Serino, the city’s emergency services director.
Students and other onlookers gathered outside as firefighters battled the blaze that followed the explosion. Glass from broken windows was scattered on the ground around the building.
Alex Zinni, a 23-year-old from Mansfield, said he was eating lunch with fellow students when black smoke and orange flames filled the second-story faculty dining hall.
“I was tossed up, tossed down, and I heard people say, ‘Go!” said Zinni, who was unhurt. “I felt like I was lifted.”
He said he ran to safety out the front door of the building, which houses 130 students and a faculty center.
The building was evacuated because of suspected structural damage. Displaced students will be sent to another dormitory, Speare Hall, Shea said.
Authorities estimated the damage at $800,000, with the worst of it on the first and second floors and a back wall.