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Michigan Gas Blast Wrecks Buildings

December 15, 1998

GALESBURG, Mich. (AP) _ A natural gas explosion and fire destroyed two businesses and damaged others this morning in this small town. One man was treated for cuts.

The 6:23 a.m. blast ``was real loud, a big boom, and the building shook a little bit. We ran down the street and saw the drugstore was filled with smoke,″ said Debby Nash, who was working at the Galesburg Meat Co. less than a block away.

``It was a perfect time of day for this to happen. Fifteen minutes later, it would’ve been full of traffic and people going to work,″ she said.

The explosion in downtown Galesburg destroyed Leng’s Hardware and Galesburg Pharmacy and damaged the Galesburg Veterinary Clinic next door, police Sgt. Jeff Peppler said. Animals at the clinic were safely evacuated, he said.

Jim Davilise, who works at nearby Midway Restaurant, told the Kalamazoo Gazette that ``the sky was raining holiday cards″ from the pharmacy.

Consumers Energy said a natural gas leak apparently caused the explosion and resulting fire.

``The gas accumulated in the basement of the pharmacy, then there was some sort of ignition of the gas, and an explosion,″ spokesman Jeff Holyfield said.

He said the company shut off the gas lines to the downtown while an investigation continued.

The only person injured was a 31-year-old motorist who had stopped his vehicle at a red light when the blast happened, Peppler said. He was treated for cuts at Borgess Medical Center.

The town of 1,800 is about 15 miles east of Kalamazoo in southwestern Michigan.

Last Friday, four people were killed and 16 injured in a gas explosion in St. Cloud, Minn. Construction workers had apparently ruptured the gas line.

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