SEATTLE (Reuters) - A fiery explosion from a natural gas leak leveled a house in Seattle early on Monday, seriously injuring two people and shattering windows in the surrounding neighborhood, authorities said.
The thunderous 6 a.m. blast prompted the evacuation of about a dozen nearby homes and a child day-care center, which remained cordoned off as of 2 p.m. as utility inspectors and fire officials sought to ensure there was no further danger.
Two residents, a man and woman in their 50s, were hospitalized with burns they suffered in the explosion and fire that destroyed their home, a utility spokesman told Reuters. He characterized the woman's injuries as life-threatening.
Investigators reported that the man told authorities after the blast that he had smelled gas on Sunday but did not report it, said Roger Thompson, a spokesman for Puget Sound Energy.
"We strongly encourage that any time someone smells natural gas, leave the building immediately -- don't switch anything on or off," Thompson said. "Don't even use a phone inside the home to call. Call from a neighbor's home or business."
The fire department confirmed there was a natural gas leak inside the northern Seattle home, and it appeared that an electrical spark, perhaps from a light switch, ignited the gas, Thompson said.
While the source of the leak remained undetermined, Thompson said dangerous levels of gas can escape from a faulty fitting on a gas pipeline or appliance, such as a furnace, hot water heater, stove or gas clothes dryer.
(Reporting by Nicole Neroulias; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)