No injuries reported at site of Center City underground explosion

John McDevitt
February 12, 2019 - 11:26 am
An explosion occurred on 20th Street near Ranstead Street.

John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Crews from the Philadelphia Fire Department, PGW and PECO are on the scene of an underground explosion on 20th Street in Center City between Chestnut and Ranstead streets.

There are no reported injuries, but investigators below street level are trying to determine exactly what caused the explosion around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

More than one manhole was blown out of the street, and large, metal access panels to underground transformers  weighing 300 to 400 pounds  were blown off into pieces. 

The front windows of a tailoring and cleaner business were completely blown out. Whether the damage came from the blast itself or from debris is unclear. 

A tailoring and cleaning business had its windows blown out during an underground explosion on 20th Street near Ranstead Street.
John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

Haviv David, owner of Mama's Vegetarian, a restaurant next door, said everyone is very lucky the result wasn't worse, but he is still rattled.

"I was inside the restaurant, and (I heard) a big, big explosion. Whole building was shaking like, like an earthquake," he said.

When he went outside to see what had happened, he saw smoke.

"It really was scary, and I look in to my neighbor. The windows came down, and I have to go look around inside and see if my neighbor, she was OK. And she was really lucky, she was inside, all the way, up inside the store," he said.

Others on the scene agreed: Pedestrians, homeowners and business-owners are all very lucky, because on any other day, if the weather were better and more people were around, injury would have been far more likely.

PGW crews are measuring for gas leaks. Firefighters are going in and out of neighboring businesses. Crews are uncertain whether the explosion involved any PECO electrical equipment. 

A coffee shop across the street also had damage to its window. Some businesses were evacuated due to high levels of carbon monoxide.

A PECO spokeswoman reported there are no customers affected, but 20th Street is shut down between Market and Chestnut streets. 

This incident was not far from where a sinkhole opened up recently. Whether Tuesday's explosion was weather-related or had anything to do with the repairs of that earlier sinkhole is unknown.