5 in­jured in ex­plo­sion in Har­rison­burg

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - — Mo­riah Balin­git

An ex­plo­sion oc­curred at a build­ing in Har­rison­burg on Sat­ur­day morn­ing, leav­ing a struc­ture en­gulfed in flames and five peo­ple in­jured, in­clud­ing three James Madi­son Uni­ver­sity stu­dents who had gath­ered for an event nearby.

A Har­rison­burg city spokesman, Mike Parks, said sev­eral peo­ple called 911 to re­port hear­ing an ex­plo­sion about 8:30 a.m. Sat­ur­day at a strip mall on Miller Cir­cle, just a few blocks west of the James Madi­son Uni­ver­sity cam­pus.

In a tweet, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called the blast a gas ex­plo­sion and said his staff was mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

Fire­fight­ers ar­rived to find a three-alarm blaze. Two peo­ple were found in­jured at the scene and flown by he­li­copter to Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia Med­i­cal Cen­ter, where they were in sta­ble con­di­tion Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon.

Three James Madi­son Uni­ver­sity stu­dents, who had as­sem­bled near the strip mall for an event, had mi­nor in­juries from be­ing struck by de­bris, ac­cord­ing to the uni­ver­sity and Parks. One stu­dent was treated at a hos­pi­tal, and the other two were treated at the scene.

On Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon, Parks said fire­fight­ers had con­ducted a pre­lim­i­nary search and had not found ev­i­dence that any­one else was in the build­ing when it ex­ploded.

Footage showed the charred re­mains of the build­ing en­gulfed in smoke and flames. Fire­fight­ers bat­tled the blaze for nearly two hours af­ter the blast. Its force rat­tled the win­dows of nearby homes, res­i­dents said.

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