Explosion at Virginia Strip Mall Injures at Least Three


At least three people were transported to hospitals, two of them with serious injuries, after an explosion and fire on Saturday morning at a strip mall in Harrisonburg, Va., the authorities said.

The cause of the explosion was unknown but was under investigation, Michael Parks, a spokesman for the city, which is about 130 miles northwest of Richmond, said at a news conference. He said the two-story strip mall was a “complete loss.”

There was no information as of Saturday afternoon that pointed to foul play or anything other than an accident, Mr. Parks said. Investigators have not yet ruled out a gas leak.

A statement from Columbia Gas of Virginia said that crews shut off natural gas service where the explosion happened.

“At this point, we have identified no issues with our facilities,” the statement said. “No odor of gas leaks were reported to Columbia, and we have found no recent reports of natural gas leaks in the area.”

The city said firefighters accounted for those at the shopping center in its primary search of the mall, which consisted of about four businesses, including a music store and a recording studio. Mr. Parks said firefighters would make one final search just in case.

A spokeswoman for Sentara Healthcare said two people were airlifted to UVA Medical Center; the City of Harrisonburg said on Twitter that two people were in stable condition at the medical center. One person had minor injuries and was being treated at Sentara RMH Medical Center.

Those injured were outside the strip mall when emergency responders arrived, Chief Matthew Tobia of the Harrisonburg Fire Department said at a news conference on Saturday morning.

Officials at James Madison University said on Facebook that among those injured was one of its students, who was transported to a hospital with minor injuries and was expected to be released soon.

The university added that two other students were treated at the scene and released.

The students were part of a group of about 30 people from the university’s R.O.T.C. program who were participating in a U.S. Army race. A building exploded about 30 yards from the start and finish lines, the university said.

Some nearby buildings were damaged but not seriously in the explosion, which was reported around 8:30 a.m.

Some businesses in the mall confirmed their employees were safe.

“We have received information from our landlord that the store has been destroyed by an explosion,” a representative for one of the stores, Hometown Music, wrote on Facebook. “We were not open and the employees are OK. Thanks for you concern and prayers. … That’s all I know for now.”

Another store, Blue Sprocket Sound, wrote on Facebook: “We don’t have all the details yet about what happened at our building. But at this time our crew is safe, and that’s the most important thing. Our hearts go out to the other businesses in the area, and want to thank all the first responders who are working hard on the scene.”





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