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[cdn-nucl-l] "nursing home boiler explosion killed at least five"
Fire crews search for answers after deadly nursing home blast
FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Emergency crews dug through the rubble of a nursing home
Thursday after a boiler explosion killed at least five people and injured
more than 20. Two people were missing and feared dead. The boiler in the
basement of the Clara Barton Convalescence Center exploded shortly before 9
p.m. Wednesday, blowing out windows and collapsing the ceiling. Firefighters
and neighbours scrambled to pull dazed survivors out of the flaming
building. "All of a sudden, our house shook," said Debra Sims, who lives a
block away. "I thought it was a big clap of thunder at first, then I saw a
flash. It was like a flash of lightning." About 110 people, including 93
residents, were inside the home at the time, Fire Chief Theron Wiggins said.
The victims and those still missing were believed to be employees. No names
were released. Four people were pronounced dead on arrival at Hurley
Medical Center and another died in surgery early Thursday, hospital
spokesman Larry Daly said Thursday. In all, 18 people were brought to the
hospital; one remained in critical condition and nine were treated and
released. Nine other people went to McLaren Regional Medical Center, radio
station WWJ-AM said. Their conditions were not immediately known. The
explosion blew out one side of the home, built in 1964. It shattered windows
and left pieces of twisted roofing metal hanging in nearby trees. Some
witnesses reported smelling natural gas after the blast, but the exact cause
of the explosion has not been determined. "This is a total shock," said
nursing home administrator Michael Kegley. "It's very, very hard on
everybody." Survivors - many of them frail and elderly - received temporary
shelter at area churches before ambulances took them to five other nursing
homes. Some bedridden patients were placed on folding tables. Glen Fosdick,
Hurley president and chief executive, said the patients included residents
and workers. Two firefighters and an ambulance worker were treated for smoke
inhalation. Eastgate Baptist Church, located about 1½ kilometres from the
nursing home, received 42 patients who did not need hospitalization, Rev.
Levi Parish said. Several dozen other patients were taken to another church.
The Red Cross, Army National Guard and fire crews responded from as far away
as Detroit and Pontiac, 100 km to the southeast. Kegley praised the response
from Flint, a blue-collar city of 140,000 where General Motors Corp. was
founded. "The response from the community has been tremendous," he said.
"The residents I talked to were in pretty good spirits. Of course, there
were some people who were frightened - I was frightened." He also commended
his employees, including one injured nurse who helped clear debris from a
hallway so residents could escape. "The staff considered that building
home," Kegley said.
© The Canadian Press, 1999