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Gas Explosion in the Hague Wounds 16

June 28, 2003

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ A powerful gas explosion ripped through a crowded shopping district of The Hague on Saturday wounding 16, including a 10-year-old boy buried under rubble for hours, city officials said.

The explosion in the basement of a snack bar seriously damaged two apartments, a jeweler and a clothing store, blowing off the front and rear facades of the building, Hague mayor Wim Deetman told reporters.

The blast jolted shoppers at a crowded nearby market forproduce and clothing, where a number of people were lightly injured.

Five hours after the blast, the boy was found under the rubble by a rescue dog mounted with a video camera, city spokesman Martin Van Bruggen said. He and seven others were in critical condition in hospital, officials said.

Fire fighters treated several people on site for burn wounds, some of which were life threatening, fire department spokesman Fred Lek said.

The Hague, a city of around 460,000 people and the seat of the Dutch government, is also the location of the International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the new permanent International Criminal Court.

The explosion went off around 2 1/2 miles from those international organizations. It was most probably caused by a gas leak, Deetman said. There were no indications the blast was the result of an attack, officials said.

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