Minneapolis building blast leaves at least 14 injured

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Originally published on January 2, 2014

An explosion and fire swept through a three-storey building in south Minneapolis on New Year's Day, injuring at least 14 people.

The building, which accommodates a grocery store on the ground floor and ten flats, is located in Cedar-Riverside, a Somali neighbourhood.

The explosion was reported at 8:15am.

"When crews initially arrived on scene, they reported flames shooting as far as 20 feet out of the windows on the second and third floor," said John Fruetel, chief of Minneapolis Fire Department.

The flames spread very quickly, and the building was soon engulfed in billows of grey smoke.

Six victims were in critical condition, and their injuries, aside from burns, were associated with "a fall from a distance". However, authorities said they did not know if those injured were hurt after jumping out of windows, falling from the building, or because they were propelled out of the building by the force of the explosion.

The final casualty figures have not been announced yet, but local newspaper the Star Tribune reported that three or four residents were missing.

The building, which was built in 1886, was totally destroyed by the flames. It was allowed to house ten resident rooms, and authorities said nine of the rooms were occupied.

More than 50 firefighters helped to tackle the blaze. With temperature hovering below minus 20 degrees celsius, the cold, frosty weather presented a challenge to the firefighting efforts. As water gushed from hoses, it formed icicles on window frames and doors, making the street icy and slippery. Firefighters were also susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as they exited the building.

The Cedar-Riverside area was lined with public housing blocks, small shops, community centres and mosques. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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