Gas explosion destroys Florida shopping center

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An explosion at a shopping centre in the USA state of Florida injured 20 people in a loud blast that could be felt for kilometres around.

Construction workers begin the cleanup process at the Fountains plaza mall in Plantation after a possible gas leak explosion leveled nearby buildings and injured 23 people.

The explosion scattered large pieces of concrete as far as 45 metres away and sent pieces of metal 90m across the street. It blew out the windows of a popular fitness club next door.

Roy Ramos, who identified himself as a reporter from local news channel Local 10, wrote on Twitter that the building where the explosion occurred had been "destroyed", and that people nearby had felt their buildings shake.

Plantation Police and Fire Rescue units responded to the scene near an LA Fitness at the Market on University shopping center, located along Southwest 10th Street and South University Drive, at around 11:30 a.m., Saturday.

All the injured were taken to area hospitals, he said.

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Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said that among them two people suffered serious injuries from the incident at the shopping center in the city near Fort Lauderdale.

"It was a massive explosion like I have never experienced", he said.

Gordon said a reunification center was opened at Plantation Central Park Gymnasium for family members looking for their relatives and for details about businesses affected.

After an extensive search by the Plantation Fire Department and various other agencies, authorities determined that everyone in the businesses at the time of the blasts had been accounted for and nobody was trapped in the rubble. Crews have since shut off the gas.

Local media reports the source of the blast was in a vacant pizza restaurant premises. So we're very thankful for that, ' Gordon said.

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