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One dead, four hurt in Maine house blast

Authorities think a propane tank was the source of the explosion at a duplex in Bath, Maine. The identity and gender of the body found in the rubble were unconfirmed.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Associated Press

Authorities think a propane tank was the source of the explosion at a duplex in Bath, Maine. The identity and gender of the body found in the rubble were unconfirmed.

BATH, Maine — A two-family house exploded early Tuesday in this historic shipbuilding city on Maine’s coast, killing one person, leaving four others hospitalized, and sending debris flying a quarter-mile away, officials said.

The single-story brick duplex blew up and caught fire about 5 a.m. in an explosion believed caused by a propane tank. Fire investigators were working to pinpoint the cause, but the duplex used propane as its heating source, said Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland.

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The home is in a development built during World War II to house shipyard workers, McCausland said.

The explosion awakened neighbors and was powerful enough to scatter debris around the neighborhood, with clothing, wood, insulation, shingles, and other items landing in trees and on top of neighbor’s homes.

‘‘I heard the boom and looked out the window,’’ said Rashell Alfalsalawi, who lives less than 100 feet away. ‘‘There was no house and debris falling everywhere, and a fire.’’

She said that clothes, wood, ashes, sticks and other debris came raining down and that she was worried for her safety.

The fire marshal called for assistance from a State Police airplane so aerial photos of the site could be taken, while also requesting State Police mapping equipment used at vehicular crash sites to map debris fields, McCausland said.

Investigators on Tuesday morning had not confirmed the identity or gender of the body that was found in the rubble, but a woman who lived in one side of the duplex was unaccounted for, ­McCausland said.

At least four people were injured, including a man who lived in the other side of the duplex and a neighbor across the street who injured his feet on nails or glass in his front yard, he said. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Ken Grimes of the fire marshal’s office said investigators are looking at propane as a possible cause of the explosion. Propane is heavier than air and tends to settle, so they are trying to determine if gas leaked from the tank, collected in a crawl space below the tank, and exploded, he said.

Bath, about 35 miles northeast of Portland, has a population of about 8,500 residents .

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