16 injured in gas explosion in Kansas City


by Reuters

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U.S. officials say a fire triggered by a natural gas explosion engulfed a restaurant in Missouri, injuring at least 16 people.

The explosion shook the Country Club Plaza, an upscale shopping mall just south of downtown Kansas City on Tuesday evening.

Fire Chief Paul Berardi said dogs and search teams were combing the charred debris for remains of anyone who may have perished.

SOUNDBITE: Chief Paul Berardi, Kansas City Fire Department saying:

"I would always fear that there are fatalities in a situation like this. When we got to the scene we had a fully involved restaurant that had patrons, probably several patrons inside at the time of the incident, and that's why we are searching as we are."

Witnesses said at least 12 ambulances swarmed the scene, as firefighters battled the flames.

Three people are reported to be in critical condition.

Officials say the precise origin of the blast is not known. But an office building was under construction across the street from the fire.

Restaurant employees, who were not working at the time of the blast said staff had begun to evacuate the building after smelling gas.