At least 20 hurt as explosion rocks South Florida shopping center | TribLIVE.com
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At least 20 hurt as explosion rocks South Florida shopping center

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WPLG via AP
This image taken from video shows debris covering the parking lot of a shopping center after an explosion on Saturday, July 6, 2019 in Plantation, Fla. The explosion happened Saturday morning at the shopping center, west of Fort Lauderdale in Broward County. The blast sent large pieces of debris about 100 yards across the street.

PLANTATION, Fla. — An explosion at a Plantation shopping center injured 15 to 20 people, before noon Saturday, in a loud blast that could be felt for miles around.

“We did find a ruptured gas line under the rubble but I can’t tell you exactly where it came from,” Plantation Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Joel Gordon said.

Two people were taken to Broward Health Medical Center in critical condition, Gordon said. Another 15 to 20 people had injuries that were not life-threatening.

Witnesses said a vacant restaurant appeared to be ground zero for the blast.

Police say all stores and businesses in the area of the Fountains Plaza and the Plantation Marketplace plaza near LA Fitness are closed until fire officials determine it is safe to return. Police are asking people to avoid the area if possible.

Some onlookers meandered throughout the plaza as firefighters and police picked through debris.

Just before the blast, Evan Hoffman, 47, of Davie, was working out with his wife Stacey at LA Fitness.

“A huge, huge bang, thump, almost, explosion,” he said. “It started shaking back and forth and the roof tiles started crashing down and the power went out.”

People were evacuating the building spontaneously, some screaming as fire alarms sounded.

“Right next to the gym is an empty store that is completely demolished,” Hoffman said.

Some evacuees appeared to be injured. The Plantation Fire Department said in a tweet it was treating “multiple patients.”

“We saw Good Samaritans carrying the injured,” Hoffman said. “there’s a lot of damage, a lot of damage.”

Some people had tourniquets on their legs, he said.

Erez Yacob, a stylist at the M. Evans Salon, said he was blow drying a client’s hair at about 12:15 p.m. when the explosion rattled the store.

“We heard a strong boom, and one second after, everything exploded in the shop and out in the street,” he said, adding that the salon’s glass windows blew out and all the shelves inside fell to the floor.

“It’s crazy,” Yacob said. “We thought it was a car or a bombing because everything (the building across the street) disappeared.”

Lynn Kline, the salon’s owner, said customers rushed to their cars, some with half-haircuts and foil in their hair still.

“We didn’t know if there was going to be another explosion so we immediately grabbed customers and went out the back emergency door,” she said. “We are so lucky no one was hurt.”

The explosion was heard and felt for miles around.

Niko Davis, 12, was at home with his mom about three miles away when they heard a “boom” and heard the windows on their house shake.

“It was a loud explosion and you couldn’t tell where it was coming from,” Davis said.

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