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An apparent gas explosion shook Port Richmond in the first early morning darkness of the year, according to Philadelphia fire officials. Though three rowhomes collapsed and a handful of people were taken to the hospital, officials say no one was killed.
The Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the incident, according to the city.
“We had multiple gas leaks in the area, and the smell of gas coming from multiple areas,” Assistant Philadelphia Fire Chief Charles Walker told Fox 29, adding that it was “very fortunate” not to have lost any lives.
Philadelphia Gas Works sent crews to turn off natural gas service to the affected area after the explosion, the utility said in a statement, but did not confirm the leaks. Despite that, PGW is handling related damage claims (details on how to file here).
People began posting on social media just before 3 a.m. on Sunday about a huge boom in the River Wards neighborhood. “I’m not talking about a firecracker. It literally shook my house,” posted u/Cockercombetuff on reddit. Other users commented they could feel or hear the explosion in Kensington, Bridesburg, and even across the river in South Jersey.
About 100 Fire Department members responded, including ” firefighters, medics, chiefs and support personnel,” per the PFD. Red Cross Philadelphia was also on scene, helping the city’s Office of Emergency Management assist impacted residents.
Here’s what else we know about the New Year’s Day explosion.
Where did it happen?
The incident was centered on the 3500 block of Miller Street, at the intersection with Atlantic. That’s just southeast of Aramingo Plaza, behind Forman Mills.
The explosion happened around 2:50 a.m., per city fire officials, and the scene was placed under control just after 5 a.m.
Was anyone hurt?
Five people were injured, according to city officials. At least one had to be extricated from the debris.
One person remained in critical condition a day later, per NBC10.
Dozens of residents in the surrounding homes were reportedly evacuated, but not harmed. People are gathering and being assisted at the Bernard Samuel Rec Center.
How much damage was there?
Three houses were destroyed, according to the city — 6ABC called them “leveled” — and more than 40 were damaged, some with doors and windows blown out. .
Cars were also thrown around by the blast, according to reporters who spoke with neighbors on scene.
Has this happened before?
Philadelphia’s aging system of gas lines has led to similar incidents in the past.
In 2020, a cracked gas main led to an explosion in South Philly that killed two people and destroyed five rowhomes. The victims’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and Philadelphia Gas Works, calling the 92-year-old gas line a “ticking time bomb.”
A decade ago, in 2011, PGW was slapped with a 334-count complaint after an explosion in Tacony killed a gas worker and injured five other employees.
In 1999, a similar explosion happened in Port Richmond, just around the corner from the most recent incident. Eight people were injured and three homes were destroyed.