Explosion followed by fire rocks town near Boston, causing minor injuries, authorities say

Wednesday, November 22nd 2006, 5:43 am
By: News On 6

DANVERS, Mass. (AP) An explosion at a chemical plant sparked a massive fire and destroyed homes and businesses, but caused only minor injuries, officials said.

The explosion just before 3 a.m. was felt miles away from the CAI Inc. plant about 20 miles north of Boston.

About 10 people were injured, but none seriously, Danvers Fire Chief James P. Tutko said.

"With the exception of chest pains, we don't have anybody who's seriously injured,'' said Philip Cormier, the chief operating officer of Beverly Hospital, where he said "fewer than 10 patients'' were treated.

Fred Grenier, 25, was asleep in a rear, second-floor bedroom with his girlfriend, Trisha Lynch, 22, about 200 yards from CAI Inc. when the explosion woke him up.

"The windows came caving in. The (air conditioner) fell right on me,'' he said.

His girlfriend's sister, Jennifer Lynch, was asleep in a bedroom that faced the plant and needed stitches for cuts on her face, Grenier said.

"There were windows gone, doors gone, vinyl siding off the houses,'' Grenier said, describing the scene when he went outside.

Electricity was knocked out. "Everyone was out in the street making sure everybody's all right,'' he said. "When you went out on the front porch, you could feel the heat.''

Other neighbors told WBZ-AM radio that they thought there had been an earthquake, and one compared the scene to footage of the Blitz in London during World War II. One resident said the explosion knocked him out of his chair.

Buildings were silhouetted in orange flames and smoke. Police prevented anyone from approaching the area.

People who live near the area, including residents of a facility for the deaf and a nursing home, were being evacuated to local schools.

CAI Inc. makes solvents and inks.

There is an Eastern Propane facility close to the CAI facility, but that was not the cause of the explosion, said company spokesman Jeff Taylor. He said all the company's tanks are secure, although the property suffered some minor damage.