9 people injured in blast at Md. shopping center

May 7, 2009 7:33:22 PM PDT
Eight firefighters and a gas company worker were hurt Thursday in a gas explosion next to a pregnancy clinic at a Maryland strip mall, authorities said. Crews were called to a shopping center in Prince George's County just before 1 p.m. Thursday because of a natural gas leak, fire department spokesman Mark Brady said. The gas company employee who was hurt was working on a gas line at the time of the blast.

Brady said two firefighters were admitted to the burn unit at the Washington Hospital Center. All other victims were treated and released at local hospitals.

Foul play was not suspected.

"We've ruled out anything sinister or suspicious," Brady said. Jeanette Zak, a board member of the Forestville Pregnancy Center, called 911 to report the leak. She said she watched from her car as firefighters tried to get into a vacant storefront next to the center. Then the store exploded.

"I could feel the heat from my car ... and kind of the whoosh of the air," Zak said.

She said she felt fortunate that she called 911 in time and no one at the center was hurt. Ordinarily, clients would have been receiving counseling, but the counselor who works Thursdays had a medical appointment.

Zak speculated the gas leak might have been caused by recent renovations in the empty storefront.

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