TOKYO (AP) — A sudden explosion from a suspected gas leak blew out walls and windows in part of a northern Japanese town Thursday morning, killing one person and injuring 17 others.
There was no sign of a fire and investigators at the suspect a gas leak may have cause the blast, Koriyama fire department official Hiroki Ogawa said. Local media say a gas leak and explosion occurred at a restaurant.
So far, one person was confirmed dead and 17 others have been taken to hospitals. Two of them were seriously injured, Ogawa said.
The area has been closed off and neighbors have been evacuated.
NHK footage showed only a skeleton left of a building, the steel structure gnawed and pieces of wall and glass scattered around. Several employees and customers at a nearby bank were injured, NHK said.
The explosion occurred in a crowded business and commercial district close to the city’s main train station, where hospitals, schools and the city hall are also located.
“I heard a ‘boom!’ and felt the ground shaking, so I thought it was an earthquake, but the shaking didn’t last very long so I realized it wasn’t,” an employee at nearby Kuwano Kyoritsu Hospital told NHK. Nobody was injured at the hospital, although some of its windows were shattered.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi