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Gas explosion rocks downtown Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A natural gas explosion leveled a multistory building housing a strip club in one of New England’s biggest cities on Friday evening, injuring at least eight people.

There was no word on whether there had been any fatalities, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s spokesman Thomas Walsh said.

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Eight people were being evaluated at Baystate Medical Center, but none had critical injuries, a hospital spokeswoman said. It was unclear if injured people had been taken to other hospitals.

The explosion, in an area of downtown Springfield with commercial properties and residences, destroyed a building that housed a Scores Gentlemen’s Club. The blast sent bricks and glass flying through the streets.

Firefighters responded to the scene at 4:20 p.m. and were investigating a gas leak when the blast happened shortly after 5 p.m., authorities said.

Area resident Wayne Davis, who lives a block away, said he felt his apartment building shake.

‘‘I was laying down in bed, and I started feeling the building shaking and creaking,’’ he said.

The Navy veteran said the boom from the explosion was louder than anything he'd ever heard, including the sound of a jet landing on an aircraft carrier.

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