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Indianapolis explosion levels homes; 2 dead

4:31 PM, Nov 11, 2012   |    comments
This aerial photo shows the two homes that were leveled and the numerous neighboring homes that were damaged from a massive explosion that sparked a huge fire and killed two people Sunday in Indianapolis.
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By Vic Ryckaert and Ryan Sabalow, The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS -- Authorities Sunday morning started letting some residents back into the Richmond Hill, Ind., neighborhood where two people died in an explosion but houses nearest to the blast remained off limits.

Fearing a gas explosion, authorities ordered an evacuation Saturday after the 11 p.m. explosion that sent residents walking through neighborhood streets and across nearby fields in slippers and pajamas, toting children in blankets, some with pets on leashes, some with their pets left behind.

The explosion obliterated two houses immediately, badly damaged two adjacent houses that were set afire from the blast and rocked neighbors out of their living room chairs, sent shelves and wall hangings flying and scattered debris across an area of several blocks.

Firefighters allowed people to return to homes with little or no structural damage that were farthest away from the epicenter of the explosion that rocked the Southside subdivision Saturday night. Marked with white tags, these owners could go back in but could not leave. Their homes remained without power.

Residents were allowed back into homes that were moderately damaged -- marked with yellow tags -- to retrieve pets, medicine and other items, but they had to be escorted by a firefighter.

Under most circumstances, residents were not allowed back into the most heavily damaged homes nearest the blast -- marked with red tags.

For Scott Alexander and Lynne Smith, who live a block away, returning to their home was a bittersweet experience. They had been worried about their dog, a pug named Yoda, since Saturday night when they rushed home after they received an alert that the security at their home had been breached.

When they arrived at the neighborhood, police would not let them near the home, so they went with others to the shelter at Mary Bryan Elementary school, and eventually spent the night with some friends who lived nearby.

Sunday afternoon, they returned to the home whose garage door was punched in and began the search for Yoda. Nearly 12 hours after the blast, the frightened dog was hiding in a closet. "He was happy to see us for sure," Alexander said.

That's when they noticed the collapsed ceiling and other structural damage that suggested the house may have been jarred off its foundation.

Three homes were destroyed in the blast.

Marion County, Ind., tax records show that the home at the central point of the explosion is owned by Monserrate R. Shirley.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was called in Sunday morning to help investigate the explosion.

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