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Blast levels Detroit-area store, kills 2 employees

 Fire officials and emergency personnel respond to an explosion at a furniture store in Wayne, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 29,  2010. (AP Photo/Detroit ...

Furniture Store Explosion

Fire officials and emergency personnel respond to an explosion at a furniture store in Wayne, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Detroit ...

A blast felt miles (kilometers) away leveled a Detroit-area furniture store, where crews rescued the owner from the rubble alive and searched for more than 12 hours before recovering the bodies of a salesman and a clerical worker who were killed in the suspected natural gas explosion.
Wayne City Manager John Zech said rescuers using search dogs found the body of salesman James Zell, 64, of neighboring Westland, in the debris left by the explosion at the store, located in downtown Wayne about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Detroit.
Shawn Bell, Wayne's deputy fire marshal, later said workers found the body of a woman in the rubble. Her name was not immediately released. Zech had said earlier the missing woman was a clerical worker for the store in her 50s who also was from Westland.
Eric Smith, a fire battalion chief who was assisting from Westland, said it would have been extraordinary for anyone to have survived such a disaster, noting that the roof was made of concrete.
"You always hold out hope, but with that kind of weight, there wasn't much to keep the structure from coming down," Smith said after the second body was removed.
The massive explosion about 9 a.m. reduced the William C. Franks Furniture store to a pile of wood, crumbled drywall, twisted metal and broken bits of furniture. The blast shattered windows at nearby businesses.
"It sounded like a bomb," said 47-year-old Lisa Johns, who said she was watching television in bed at her home nearby and rushed to the scene. "The power went off and came back on two or three minutes later."
Owner Paul Franks, who was pulled out shortly after the blast, was upgraded from critical to serious condition in the burn unit at the University of Michigan's medical center.
Police evacuated homes and businesses near the store. Officials expected most residents would be able to return by the end of the day, but several were offered hotel rooms for the night as a safety precaution.
During the search, groups of firefighters entered the building four and five at a time, scraping away at the rubble using long poles with hooks on the end. Bobcats and front-loaders moved around the area. Video footage shot from TV helicopters showed dozens of rescuers working on and around the remains of the store.
Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said the utility believed natural gas was involved, but the cause of the blast is still unknown. The company had received a call of a possible gas leak in the area several hours earlier and a worker had been trying to track down the source when the explosion took place, Dodd said.
Associated Press writers Corey Williams, David Aguilar, Randi Berris and David N. Goodman in Detroit contributed to this report.

Updated : 2021-04-23 16:27 GMT+08:00