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Natural gas explosion rocks San Bruno; 4 dead

September 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Four people have been declared dead; at least 52 others have been injured, including four who are in the hospital with critical burns following a massive natural gas explosion in San Bruno.

Late Friday night, the San Mateo County Coroner's Office released the names of three of the at least four people who were killed. Two of the victims are mother and daughter -- 44-year-old Jacqueline Greig and 13-year-old Janessa Grieg. Greig worked with the California Public Utilities Commission. The other victim has been identified as 20-year-old Jessica Morales.

The name of the fourth victim has not yet been released, however Faye Wharton told ABC7 the body of her 80-year-old grandmother was found in the ruins of her home, which is right next to the explosion. She received word from authorities late Friday night. Her two aunts and uncle were also in the house. They made it out alive, but were severely burned.

At 6:24 p.m. Thursday, an explosion and fireball erupted from near the intersection near Glenview Drive and Earl Avenue. People as far as one-half mile away say they felt the boom and heat of the explosion.

PG&E confirms a 30-inch natural gas line was the source of the explosion and fire. There has been no word on what caused the pipe to rupture, although PG&E President Chris Johns said the pipe was 40-50 years old.

After burning out of control for hours, the blaze was finally contained Friday afternoon. Fifty-two people were transported to area hospitals, three with critical burns. Four firefighters sustained minor injuries.

There was one report of a person looting one of the burned houses. That person also charged for assaulting an officer and arrested for trying to flee.

Rescue crews and home inspection crews performed a house-to-house search through the neighborhood. There were 37 structures destroyed and eight more homes that suffered major or minor damage. See which homes were destroyed here

Officials are working on a re-entry plan for the residents.

Injures at the Bothin Burn Center

Four of burn victims are in the Bothin Burn Center at St. Francis Hospital. That center is internationally recognized for being one of the most advanced acute care centers for burn victims.

All of the victims are in critical condition according to Dr. Michael Kulick, M.D., who was the surgeon on duty when they were brought in last night. Three patients have burns over 50 percent of their bodies, and the other one has burns on 40 percent of the body. Two doctors and 40 nurses were there to accept the patients.

What the victims face is difficult, with many procedures. They are breathing with a tube, they have been given fluids, and are stable. On Sunday Kulick will remove when he calls non-viable tissue. The final phase will be grafting skin from areas not burned onto the burned area. But all of these procedures could take up to two years.

The public has responded to the plight of San Bruno residents. At the Burn Centers of the Pacific, the wait is up to two hours to give blood. So many people turned out that they are suggesting donors come back another time, since they will need blood in the coming weeks.

Shelters

Early Friday morning, volunteers at the San Bruno Recreation Center organized supplies to be distributed to displaced residents. Only about 15 people slept at the evacuation center, but many residents returned on Friday to access services.

There will not be a shelter open on Friday night because the Red Cross and PG&E has offered to pay for any displaced residents to be housed in hotels.

Leaders offer aid

Lieutenant Gov. Abel Maldonado has declared a state of emergency in the area and joined other leaders in San Bruno Friday. (Maldonado is acting governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of the country.) Maldonado has briefed Schwarzenegger on the situation. Maria Shriver also visited the area on Friday.

PG&E President Chris Johns said at a Friday press conference that the company is committed to providing temporary housing, food, clothing and other essential needs to the displaced residents.

The state is also taking steps to ease the struggles of the victims. Maldonado announced that the state would waive fees for people replacing their drivers licenses and birth certificates as well as waive the waiting period for people looking for unemployment assistance.

Investigation begins

At least one person claims that residents had been complaining of the smell of natural gas for several days prior to the explosion. A PG&E spokesperson says the company is investigating these claims.

San Bruno police have declared the area crime scene. The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday that it has sent a four-member team to San Bruno to investigate. The impacted area includes the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Claremont Drive, the 900 block of Glenview Drive, the 1700 block of Earl Avenue, the 1100 block of Fairmont Drive and the 2700 block of Concord Way.

Are big pipelines safe?
Many people are wondering what the dangers are living close to large natural gas pipelines. ABC7's Dan Noyes looks into the safety issues of these major pipelines. More on that story here

ABC7 Breaking News Coverage:
VIDEO: Firefighters saved homes despite challenges
VIDEO: Friday evening update on San Bruno explosion
VIDEO: Friday noon press conference
VIDEO: Friday morning press conference
RAW SKY7 VIDEO: Friday morning over San Bruno
VIDEO: ABC7 News morning update on explosion
VIDEO: Photographer's first-hand account of devastation
VIDEO: Eyewitness account
PHOTOS: San Bruno explosion
VIDEO: "I thought - this is judgment day"
VIDEO: Fire consumes neighborhood
VIDEO: Photographer captures images moments after blast

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