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Philadelphia row house collapses, injuring 8

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Investigators say a gas leak is to blame for a Philadelphia house explosion that left eight people hurt, one critically.

City officials made the determination Monday afternoon, several hours after the unoccupied home collapsed and adjoining homes were badly damaged. The house was being remodeled in the middle of a south Philadelphia street lined with connected two-story brick homes.

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Police say a contractor was working on a water heater in the basement of the destroyed home. He is hospitalized with critical injuries while the other seven people, including a baby, have injuries that aren’t life threatening.

Bricks showered onto the small street and nearly covered a car parked out front. The houses on either side of the destroyed home were left partly standing, with large sections of their masonry walls gone.

The area was evacuated and residents taken to a nearby school, which was being used as a temporary shelter. Gas service was turned off on the block.

‘‘I was in the shower and I thought my house was about to fall down,’’ said Christie Scibblo, a 26-year-old mother of four who lives four houses down from the collapsed home. ‘‘I ran outside and I saw a firefighter rescuing an infant.’’

Scibblo said she also saw firefighters hosing down a man who had been burned.

Daniel Killian, 19, who lives across the narrow street from the houses that collapsed, said he could smell gas shortly before the explosion.

‘‘It smelled like straight gas, so strong,’’ he said. ‘‘I felt like I was going to throw up.’’

Last month, a collapse at a downtown Philadelphia demolition site killed six people and injured 12 when a large wall fell on an adjacent thrift store. A machinery operator is charged with involuntary manslaughter and a grand jury is weighing whether anyone else should be charged.

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