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Explosion rocks Danvers, several hurt, none seriously

Nov 22, 2006 | Boston Globe

A major chemical explosion at an industrial park in Danvers shook several North Shore towns this morning, knocking homes off foundations and damaging buildings up to 1/4 mile away, according to witnesses and fire officials.

At least 10 people have been taken to local hospitals, but no one was killed and none of the injuries are life-threatening, said Danvers Fire Chief Jim Tutco.

People felt the blast as far away as New Hampshire, and State Representative Theodore C. Speliotis called it a "miracle" that no one died. "There's no other word for it," Speliotis said

The explosion at about 2:45 a.m. at the CAI, Inc. company shattered windows, knocked in doors and leveled several homes and businesses, damaging an estimated 60 buildings. Fire has been restricted to the chemical plant in the Danversport industrial park where solvents and ink are produced.

Frances Fratus heard a noise that sounded like "thunder" that knocked her out of bed. She looked out her window about 500 yards from the explosion and saw "a giant ball of fire, going up about 100 feet in the air."

"The impact blew in all our cellar windows and my front door was blown out," said Fratus, 63.

A man who answered the telephone at CAI's plant in Georgetown refused to comment on the explosion. He said that the company is waiting to find out more from investigators, and then hung up the telephone.

No one could be reached for comment at the Danvers plant.

The industrial park is along the Danvers River off Route 35, near the Peabody town line. At least three homes and several businesses were nearly leveled and dozens more homes were damaged, according to Town Manager Wayne Marquis.

Some of the homes near the blast site may need to condemned, Marquis said. Entire roofs were blown off the Danversport bakery and pizza factory.

"You won't be buying your holiday rolls there," said State Fire Marshall Stephen Coan.

Residents described an earthquake-like explosion. Authorities closed off nearby roads and tried to control the crowds as people wandered into the streets. Some described a huge mushroom cloud hovering over the area.

As the sun rose, homeowners began assessing damage. Cracks stretched across the walls of Richard and Cindy Parker's house on Water Street, about a block from the explosion. Windows were blown out of frames, and Richard Parker had to axe their way out the front door because the force of the blast had twisted the frame. Objects fell off counters and shelves. The impact knocked ash out of the chimney, spewing it acorss the living room floor.

"It felt like something actually hit the house," said Richard Parker, who was asleep with his wife in the second floor bedroom. The clock popped off the wall and stopped at 2:45 a.m.

Representatives from the state fire marshal's office and the US Environmental Protection Agency were on the scene, along with state police, and firefighters and ambulance crews from Middleton, Wenham, and many other North Shore communities.

Alan Farell was sleeping in a downstairs bedroom about 100 yards away when the explosion blew in his windows.

"It was God awful," said Farell, who ran outside because he thought his own home was on fire.

Tom Russo lives on Endicott Street about a half mile away when h his windows cracked and his doors flew open.

"I was in bed watching television. It rolled me right out of bed," Russo said.

Residents are being evacuated by bus to Danvers High School, where the Red Cross is setting up a shelter. About 60 people from the nearby New England Home for the Deaf have also been evacuated. School in Danvers has been cancelled for the day.

Outside Beverly Hospital, Trisha Lynch, 22, stood wrapped in a blanket. Lynch and she and her fiancé, Fred Grenier, were asleep on the second floor of a home on Bates Street about 150 yards from the explosion. .

"I thought a plane had crashed," said lynch, who had brought in a relative who needed stitches on her face.

Coan, the State Fire Marshall, said it was too early to speculate what caused the explosion.


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