21 injured in Haifa gas blast

Officials urge public to take special care of gas appliances during Passover cleaning.

gas blast 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
gas blast 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
One person was seriously injured and another 25 suffered light-to moderate-wounds when a gas canister exploded on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Haifa's Neveh Sha'anan neighborhood early Thursday morning. Rescue workers evacuated more than 30 residents, including several children attending a private kindergarten. Eight families, whose apartments were destroyed by the blast, have been offered temporary housing in the nearby Beit Abba Hushi community center. Social workers and psychologists were called in to treat the residents. The head of the National Infrastructures Ministry in Haifa, Natan Kramaski, urged the public to constantly check the condition and connection of their gas canisters. Kramaski is leading the team of ministry and police investigators looking into the cause of the explosion. "I want to make it clear to the public that, especially during Pessah cleaning, if one moves the 'fridge, oven or other large furniture in the kitchen, to always double check the gas connection," said Kramaski. He said it was also important to always check the gas connection before going to sleep or leaving the house. He also said it was too early to tell who was to blame for the explosion - the gas company that supplied the canister or one of the residents of the eight-story building. "So far, we know that the explosion was caused by a loose connection in the pipe linking the gas canister to the wall," said Kramaski. "This is one of the worst explosion I've seen in recent years." Moshe Rosenberg, a Haifa city engineer, told residents that the building was no longer stable and that the top four floors might have to be demolished. An eyewitness told Army Radio that he was in bed when he heard a huge blast. "I saw an entire building go up in smoke. Initially, I feared it was a terrorist attack," he said. A spokesman for the National Infrastructures Ministry said the gas companies were supposed to check their canisters every six months. Amisragas, the company that supplied this particular building, told reporters that a thorough check of the building was conducted six months ago. He said the explosion was caused by carelessness on the part of the residents. Residents, however, said there had been strong gas odors over the past few days. However, no one made an official complaint to the gas company. Thursday's gas canister explosion joins a growing number of similar incidents. In April 2005, a pregnant woman and her three-month-old daughter were killed and two people were injured when a truck laden with gas canisters blew in a small town in the Negev. In December 2004, a gas canister exploded in the crowded Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem, and in July 2003 seven people were killed in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood when a two-story building collapsed after a gas explosion. Yigal Grayeff contributed to this report.