WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) – Some shop owners smelled gas for the last couple of days at a shopping plaza rocked by an explosion that injured at least eight people and rattled nearby buildings, authorities said.
The blast occurred around lunchtime Thursday in a business district about 40 miles north of Chicago, shattering windows and collapsing the roof of the plaza, which housed a cell phone shop, a tuxedo store and a hair salon, among other businesses.
Five people were taken to Vista East Medical Center, none with life-threatening injuries, and four were discharged by Thursday evening, hospital spokesman Adam Beeson said. He said he didn't know the remaining patient's condition.
Three people were treated for injuries at the scene, Deputy Fire Chief Dan Young said. There was no reason to believe anyone was missing, he added.
Authorities believe the incident was caused by a gas explosion, he said.
"The whole back of the building was pancaked," Young said.
People's Gas spokeswoman Bonnie Johnson said a crew was at the scene but hadn't been able to get close enough to say what might have caused the explosion.
Candi Rixie said she was taking orders at Leno's Submarine Shop a block away from the shopping plaza when the blast hit.
"We felt like an earthquake, like somebody had hit the building with a car," she said.
Rixie said she ran out of the restaurant to see what had happened. She and others said they first thought they saw bodies in the street, but quickly realized it was clothes and mannequins that had been on display in a store and blown outside by the blast.
Gary Podyma was taking inventory at the Living Foods Pantry health food store across the street from the shopping building when he heard a loud explosion and his windows blew out.
Then he saw a big, brown cloud and debris coming toward him.
"To see a building coming toward you like that — words can't describe the feeling you get," he said. "It was frightening, it was ominous."
He said he also smelled a strong odor of gas immediately after the blast.
"It's amazing that anybody survived," he said.
David Motley, a spokesman for the city of Waukegan, said the brick building was decades-old.
"The roof blew up and off and fell back down," he said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.