Gas explosion sends people running for lives as flames shoot from the street

Gas

HMN-5 people who were originally reported as missing have now been located.

(SF Chronicle)

Four buildings caught fire Wednesday afternoon after an explosion occurred near San Francisco’s Inner Richmond District, officials said.

The incident was reported just before 1:30 p.m. at Hong Kong Lounge II near the intersection of Geary Boulevard and Parker Avenue when eight construction workers digging in the ground to install fiber optic cables hit a gas line, said Joanna Hayes-White, the San Francisco fire chief.

Five of the workers briefly went missing, but all eight workers, who are employed by an unidentified contractor, have since been accounted for, Hayes-White said.

Less than a quarter-mile from the blaze, Antelmo Faria had just sat down to have lunch with his girlfriend at the counter of Mel’s Drive-In when he heard a loud “rumble and felt the windows shake.”

He took one look at the faces of the wait staff and immediately knew something was wrong.

“Their faces just look like they saw a ghost,” Faria said. “It was pretty surreal. It was like one of those things that you see on TV or in the movies. I turned around and just told my girlfriend, ‘Let’s run.’”

As the couple ran, Faria, 38, saw flames “shooting out from the street” right in front of Hong Kong Lounge II. A nearby tree also caught fire.

Surrounding neighborhoods within a one-block radius of the blaze were being evacuated, according to the city’s Police Department.

PG&E is also responding to the scene, officials said.

Fire crews warned that high voltage wires were “compromised” and advised people to avoid the area.

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