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Missouri restaurant gas blast injures 14

20 February 2013

A restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, was engulfed in flames on February 19 after a gas leak caused an explosion, leaving at least 14 people injured, three seriously. There were no initial reports of deaths, said Rhonda Flores, a spokeswoman for the Police Department.

Firefighters searched through the rubble with dogs for any signs of people trapped inside the restaurant, named JJ’s.

Missouri Gas Energy, the gas company for the area, said that “early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues.” The company has shut off gas to the area, the statement said.

Many people in surrounding buildings had complained of a strong smell of gas during the day. Because of the odor, JJ’s was not operating its kitchen at the time of the blast, KSHB-TV reported. Soon after inspectors from the gas company told people at the restaurant to leave, the building exploded, the station reported. It was shortly after 6 p.m., Ms. Flores said.

Five victims were being treated that night at the University of Kansas Hospital, with one in critical condition and two in serious condition, mostly injured by flying debris rather than burns.

Update February 21: Firefighters recovered the body of a young woman from the Kansas City restaurant destroyed by a natural gas blast and fire that injured another 15 people, authorities said. Kansas City Mayor Sly James said firefighters were still looking for other potential victims of the explosion and fire that flattened JJ's restaurant in the Country Club Plaza shopping district.

Missouri Gas Energy earlier said it responded to reports of a strong gas smell in the restaurant area, city officials said. The company said in a statement that first indications were that a contractor doing work in the area had struck a natural gas line. 

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