An investigation continued Thursday in the natural gas explosion that destroyed most of a city block in a shopping district Tuesday night in Kansas City, MO. A snow storm that blanketed the region Wednesday night had slowed progress, officials said.

The blast, which led to a four-alarm fire in the early evening hours, leveled JJ’s, a popular restaurant and sent more than a dozen people to area hospitals (see Daily GPI, Feb. 21). One woman’s body was recovered Tuesday at the scene but her identification still was pending Thursday afternoon. The Missouri Public Service Commission is conducting an investigation, and staff from Missouri Gas Energy (MGE) is at the scene to assist.

Preliminary reports indicate that a natural gas main was punctured by a “contractor doing work for a cable company,” MGE said. The contractor was identified in reports as Heartland Midwest, which apparently had been subcontracted to extend a fiber optic line for Time Warner Cable Inc. A Time Warner spokesman said it was too early in the investigation to speculate about the cause.

MGE, which serves about 500,000 customers in western Missouri, informed authorities that the gas main had been marked clearly. Emergency responders and MGE personnel began evacuating the area around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. At about 6 p.m. at least two explosions erupted, shattering glass and spreading debris. The blast was felt up to a mile away.

A hotline, (877) 872-1288, has been established by MGE to ensure that “affected residents and businesses in the area are taken care of as quickly as possible.”

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