21 hurt in Florida shopping plaza blast: Gas lines found ruptured

PLANTATION, Florida (AP) – A vacant pizza restaurant exploded last Saturday in a thundering roar at a South Florida shopping plaza in the United States (US), injuring more than 20 people as large chunks of concrete flew through the air.

The blast flung debris widely along a busy road in Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant was destroyed, and nearby businesses and cars were damaged. Though firefighters found ruptured gas lines afterward, authorities said it was too early to determine a cause.

“We thought it was thunder at first, and then we felt the building shake and things started falling. I looked outside and it was almost like the world was ending,” said Alex Carver, a worker at a deli across the street from the explosion. “It was nuts, man. It was crazy.”

The explosion hurled large pieces of concrete up to 45 metres away and sent pieces of metal scattering as far as 90 metres across the street. Carver said two of his co-workers’ cars were destroyed.

At least 21 people were injured though none of the injuries was life-threatening, Police Sergeant Jessica Ryan said.

The explosion demolished the building, leaving behind only part of its metal frame. The restaurant, called PizzaFire, had been out of business for several months. The blast also blew out the windows of a popular fitness club next door at the shopping plaza in Broward County.

Jesse Walaschek had just left the fitness club with his wife and three children, ages four, six and eight. They were parked near the restaurant and had just driven about 45 metres away when they heard the blast.

“It was a massive explosion like I have never experienced,” he said.

Image taken from video provided by WPLG shows debris covering the parking lot of a shopping centre after an explosion in Plantation, Florida. – AP