While Black Friday chaos was breaking out in countless retail stores last night, the entertainment district in one of New England's biggest cities, Springfield, Massachusetts, faced a different kind of nightmare: A natural gas explosion leveled a strip club and heavily damaged a dozen other buildings, including a day care. The blast, which could be heard for miles and left a large hole in the ground where the strip club once stood and debris scattered over a three-block radius, injured eighteen people, many of them first responders.
Generally, when we hear about a disaster like this -- especially when there are injuries -- the last thing any of us really think about is what a "miracle" it was! But in this case, that's what officials are saying, because it actually could have turned out a lot worse ...
Because a gas leak and odor that had been reported an hour before the explosion, part of the entertainment district had already been evacuated. Believe it or not, it turns out that the timing of the blast -- at 5:30 p.m. -- was also quite fortunate, because the day care was closed. And some firefighters, police officers and gas company workers did end up in harm's way, it's heartening to be able to say the proper precautions were taken to protect people in the neighborhood.
Dr. Matthew Levy, an emergency services and disaster response expert at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explains:
Every day emergency services respond to calls for burning smells and gas leaks -- calls that we sometimes classify as good intent calls -- and majority go on to be nothing. But all have to be treated seriously. The responders gave this event the proper degree of credibility it required and had they not done what they did, things could have been a lot worse.
What's more, it sounds like the State Fire Marshal and state's Department of Public Utilities are taking action to learn even more from this unfortunate event, to guard against something similar happening in the future. Both have opened investigations into the cause of the blast, as well as the possible origin. Plus, the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts company said they will continue to monitor for any potential leaks within several blocks of the blast site. Thank goodness! Because clearly, when it comes to an incident like this, it never hurts to be over-prepared.
Are you impressed with the emergency response to this incident?
Image via WWLP.com