Natural Gas Explosion Destroys Three Lafayette Homes

(LAFAYETTE, Ind., November 27th, 2002, 2:30 p.m.) -- An apparent natural gas leak caused explosions Wednesday that destroyed three homes and injured at least four people.

Firefighters were trying shut off the gas line and extinguish the flames early Wednesday afternoon.

At least one blast occurred around 10 a.m. in a neighborhood east of downtown near St. Elizabeth Medical Center, said Mike Roeder, a spokesman for Vectren Corp., the utility that supplies gas to the affected homes.

Another home was destroyed in an explosion about 12:30 p.m.

St. Elizabeth spokesman Matthew Oates said four injured people had been brought there for treatment but would not discuss their conditions.

"We implemented our disaster plan to receive any patients we could receive," Oates said. "We got a handful at St. Elizabeth and none were received at Home Hospital."

No fatalities were immediately reported.

Police received a report just before 10 a.m. that a construction crew had hit a gas line and residents reported the first explosions about 20 minutes later.

Roeder said he did not immediately know the cause of the explosion.

Other people in the neighborhood were evacuated, including an elementary school just west of the explosion site.

Police cordoned off several blocks, with residents being taken by bus to a community center.

Jessie Sewell, who lives in a nearby apartment complex, told the Journal and Courier that a gas smell permeated the area just before the explosion.

"There was gas everywhere. You just don't know how bad the gas smell was," she said. "The gas was so thick, you could see it. As soon as I got on the bus (to be evacuated), I was coughing and sick."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)