Explosion prompts evacuation of Great Mall

June 28, 2009 7:14:18 PM PDT
The Great Mall of the Bay Area in Milpitas was evacuated Sunday after a nearby power transformer exploded. Power was knocked out there just as temperatures were hovering around 103 degrees.

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Around 6 p.m. Sunday PG&E reported only 56 customers without power, an improvement from initial reports that came out around 3:30 p.m. of 1,900 without power.

Why the explosion happened is still a mystery and PG&E officials are trying to figure out what happened. They do know that there was an explosion and a fire. The explosion actually blew a metal grate off the ground and sent it flying through the air along with some oil.

Firefighters say everyone is very lucky that no one got hurt as there were a lot of people on Main Street where it happened. It happened in front of a liquor store which was open at the time. A church next door was full of 200 people inside. Witnesses say they heard a loud boom and saw a big fire.

"Boom... So, I just looked out the door and the flames came out, and the smoke came out, and then people tried to run away from it," recalled restaurant owner Nulom Tanthean.

The Great Mall, the biggest mall in Northern California, is a great place for people to escape the heat, get ice cream, get air conditioning or catch a movie. But, on Sunday it turned out to be a hot place to be because the power went out. But, by 6 p.m. the power had been mostly restored, which was good because it was 103 degrees outside.

There was a fire burning underground on Main Street where the transformer blew. Firefighters told ABC7 it was too dangerous for them to go underground so they just let it burn. They say it is out and now safe for PG&E crews to go down to try and figure out what happened.

One part of their investigation will focus on whether there was too much pressure on that transformer because of too many people using too much power on a hot day.

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