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Explosion Near N.C. Mall

August 20, 2000

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) _ Officials evacuated a large shopping center Sunday after a natural gas explosion at a nearby construction site shook the complex.

No injuries were immediately reported, but hundreds of shoppers inside the mall said they could feel the heat and vibrations.

Officials said the explosion shot flames and debris 100 feet in the air and the fire was still burning more than two hours later. It was not immediately known what is being built at the construction site or how the fire began.

The construction site was several hundred yards from Concord Mills mall and several freestanding restaurants, all off Interstate 85 about 20 miles northeast of Charlotte.

Firefighters are ``waiting for the gas to be cut off and then they will fight the fire,″ said Sherry Lee, a spokeswoman for the Concord Fire Department. ``It’s a huge ball of fire.″

George McCullough III, who was at the mall with his wife, said he thought an aircraft had crashed. ``I could feel it under my feet,″ he said.

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