Update November 14th: See updated information on this new post.
|Screenshot from WISH-TV video showing the affected neighborhood. Note how the homes surrounding the explosion have had their windows blown out and parts of their structure buckled. These homes may have to be condemned|
This story is of interest to those of us in Alaska who use natural gas. An Associated Press story published by the Anchorage Daily News implies that an incorrectly-repaired gas furnace may have triggered the catastrophic explosion originating at 8349 Fieldfare Way in the Richmond Hill subdivision of south Indianapolis at 11:08 P.M. CST on Saturday November 10th, 2012 that completely leveled two homes and damaged as many as 80 homes. Thirty-six of the homes sustained critical damage, thirty-one of which have been declared unfit for occupancy, and four of those homes, two on either side of the explosion, have been ordered demolished. The explosion was strong enough to trigger earthquake sensors maintained by Indiana University in Bloomington, even though the closest sensor was 30 miles away in Martinsville in Morgan County.
Two people, Jennifer L. Longworth and her husband, John D. Longworth, are presumed to have died when the adjoining home 8355 Fieldfare Way was also leveled. Monserrate Shirley and Mark Leonard, who lived at 8349 Fieldfare Way, were at a casino the night of the explosion, while Shirley's daughter was at a friend’s house and the family’s cat was being boarded, so all four escaped injury.
-- The Indianapolis Star has a gallery of 61 photos HERE.
-- The IndyChannel has a color-coded map showing the most affected properties HERE.
WISH-TV news video embedded below:
A separate report from WISH-TV reveals some ambiguity about this account, though; they have a source that claims a family member had complained about smelling gas inside the home but the source was unsure when that complaint was made and whether Citizens Gas was notified. On Sunday November 11th, Citizens Gas reported the utility had not received any calls from the neighborhood in the past two days in regards to neighbors smelling gas, but on Monday Citizens spokesperson Dan Considine said he could not comment and referred all questions to the Department of Homeland Security. Citizens has also published a statement on their website. Nevertheless, the AP account strongly infers that the furnace may have been repaired incorrectly, creating a natural gas leak inside the home. The natural gas may have pooled inside and not leaked outside, which would explain why neighborhood residents interviewed after the blast said they did not smell any natural gas in the area prior to the explosion. This is different than the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010, where neighborhood residents did report a natural gas smell well before that catastrophe. Authorities have now ruled out a plane crash, a bomb, and a meth lab explosion as possible causes; the investigation is now focusing more upon natural gas. A utility spokesman said workers have been inspecting mains in the neighborhood but have detected no leaks as of this post. Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said the investigation could take some time and investigators will treat the area as a crime scene until they rule out foul play. The incident is affecting local public attitudes towards natural gas somewhat. WISH-TV is running an unscientific poll on their main page asking respondents if they feel natural gas is safe; 27 percent of respondents say No as of this post. But 55 percent still consider natural gas fundamentally safe. It is rather odd that the Department of Homeland Security is now involved, even though a bomb seems to have been ruled out as the cause. But that's probably because BATF is participating in the investigation. Those interested in continuing local coverage from Indianapolis can visit WISH-TV, the IndyChannel, and the Indianapolis Star for more information.