Shocked residents describe scene of gas explosion in downtown Netanya as 'combination of terror attack, earthquake.' Multiple rescue, sanitation teams still tunneling through debris
Latest Update: 06.17.11
Multiple Rescue Services teams were still at the site of the Netanya explosion Friday morning, working to remove debris from the surrounding area; which according to the Home Front Command is expected to remain closed until noon, at the very least.
Four people were killed and some 50 other were wounded, most of them lightly, in a blast that took place late Thursday night at a building adjacent to Ha'atzmaut Square in downtown Netanya.
A 16-year old girl killed in the Netanya gas explosion Thursday night was laid to rest Friday afternoon at a local cemetery. Two other girls were killed along with her, and the fourth victim was 28-year-old Mohammed Abu Ata from Wadi Ara.
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Police believe that the explosion, which nearly took out the entire four-storey building, was the result of a gas leak. The possibility of foul play is being investigated and according to police source, there is a suspect in custody.
A walkthrough of the premises at first light Friday exposed what teams on the ground described as "unimaginable ruins": The blast also took out a nearby restaurant and synagogue, throwing debris clear across the square.
Home Front Command and Rescue Services teams are still tunneling through the ruins using bulldozers and specialty equipment meant to dig through the first floor of the building, which suffered the brunt of the explosion.
To illustrate the damage, one of the teams pointed to a teaspoon for the demolished restaurant – which the force of the blast imbedded in a tree standing more than 50 yards away.
The City sent multiple sanitation crews to the area to assist in the cleanup of the square, which is one of the city's main venues.
Shocked residents described the scene as "a combination of a terror attack and an earthquake."
Meanwhile, the remains of the four fatalities have been transferred to the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine for autopsy.
Extent of damage still unknown
Evidence of the blast could be seen hundreds of yards away from its epicenter, as municipal officers and local business owners were trying to assess the damage.
Izzy Inbar, CEO of the Netanya Municipality, said the City is currently focused on clearing any debris that may endanger the public. The area has been sealed off.
"We also have Social Services teams in the hospitals with the injured, to see to their needs. The City is also supplying legal counsel to all those affected by the explosion.
"This was a massive blast, dozens of homes and businesses in a radius of over 100 meters were damaged," he said. "We don't have a full assessment of the damage yet, but we have dozens of City employees here and they will carry on for as long as it takes."
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