Natural gas explosion rocks San Bruno; at least 4 dead

SAN BRUNO, Calif.

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At 6:24 p.m. Thursday, an explosion and fireball erupted from near the intersection near Glenview Drive and Earl Avenue. People as far as one-half mile away say they felt the boom and heat of the explosion.

PG&E confirms a 30-inch natural gas line was the source of the explosion and fire. There has been no word on what caused the pipe to rupture, although PG&E President Chris Johns said the pipe was 40-50 years old.

After burning out of control for hours, the blaze was finally contained Friday afternoon. Fifty-two people were transported to area hospitals, three with critical burns. Four firefighters sustained minor injuries. There was one report of a person looting one of the burned houses. That person also charged for assaulting an officer and arrested for trying to flee.

Rescue crews and home inspection crews performed a house-to-house search through the neighborhood. There were 37 structures destroyed and eight more homes that suffered major or minor damage. See which homes were destroyed here.

Officials are working on a re-entry plan for the residents.

Shelter set up at Veterans Memorial Recreation Center

Beginning early Friday morning, volunteers at the San Bruno Recreation Center organized supplies to be distributed to displaced residents. Only about 15 people slept at the evacuation center, but many residents returned on Friday to access services.

There will not be a shelter open on Friday night because PG&E has offered to pay for any displaced residents to be housed in hotels.

Leaders offer aid

Lieutenant Gov. Abel Maldonado has declared a state of emergency in the area and joined other leaders in San Bruno Friday. (Maldonado is acting governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of the country.) Maldonado has briefed Schwarzenegger on the situation. Maria Shriver also visited the area on Friday.

PG&E President Chris Johns said at a Friday press conference that the company is committed to providing temporary housing, food, clothing and other essential needs to the displaced residents.

The state is also taking steps to ease the struggles of the victims. Maldonado announced that the state would waive fees for people replacing their drivers licenses and birth certificates as well as waive the waiting period for people looking for unemployment assistance. Investigation begins

At least one person claims that residents had been complaining of the smell of natural gas for several days prior to the explosion. A PG&E spokesperson says the company is investigating these claims.

San Bruno police have declared the area crime scene. The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday that it has sent a four-member team to San Bruno to investigate. The impacted area includes the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Claremont Drive, the 900 block of Glenview Drive, the 1700 block of Earl Avenue, the 1100 block of Fairmont Drive and the 2700 block of Concord Way.

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