Dig Deep: Explosion Investigation Intensifies as All Eyes Turn Toward Suspected Gas Leak

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A massive house explosion rocked Cleveland's Eastside Wednesday morning.

It happened in the 17000 block of Federal Drive just before 8AM. A home exploded, leveled three homes and caused damage to 16 others. [Were you there? Send us your pictures and videos HERE]

The home was vacant, but the gas account was active. 19 Action News has learned the meter reading was substantially higher than the previous month, meaning gas had been pouring out pipes.

Reporter Paul Orlousky learned from a councilman on scene that Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority owns the home.

They announced Thursday that they are actively participating into the investigation:

"We are relieved and thankful that no one was seriously injured in this incident and appreciate the responsiveness of neighbors, Cleveland police and firefighters, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and others who responded to the scene so quickly," said George Phillips-Oliver, CEO of the CMHA. "We are working closely with authorities to help determine what happened yesterday morning and will report findings as soon as we know the cause."

Its still not clear if work was being done on the home at the time of the explosion, something that will certainly be looked into as the investigation begins.

"We want to make sure that we take....cross all our T's and dot all our I's to make sure that, when we do open this back up this community, the residents will be as safe as possibility," said Lt. Larry Gray of the Cleveland Fire Department. 

"Any source of ignition?" asked Orlousky. 

"No, not at this point," replied Gray.

"We immediately shut off the gas to the three homes that were leveled," said Tracy Oliver of Dominion East Ohio. "We turned off the gas at the meter to approximately 20 other homes that sustained damage."

When asked if there had been any calls of gas in the days leading up to the explosion, Oliver said no, not to her knowledge. Some residents, however, say they did smell something prior to the explosion.

A total of eleven people - six adults and five children - were transported to MetroHealth Medical Center. All of the victims were treated and released by mid-afternoon on Wednesday. The doctor says the victims were treated for lacerations and contusions.

"All I know is that I got up, something fell on top of me," said explosion survivor William Poe moments after being released from the hospital. "I heard a big boom. My house was gone - one side of my house was gone. I was looking for my kids. My wife said the kids are fine. So I climbed up out of the debris and said get everybody out of the house. Once everybody was out of the house, it was a miracle, you know? Just a miracle that we're standing here today."

The devastating blast rocked the Eastside - and could be felt as far away as Maple Heights and Gates Mills.

"And all I heard was boom," said Sherrill Williams. "My whole house shook. I thought the house was on fire or the roof blew off. That's how bad it was. I was so terrified. I did not know what to do."

"A big boom. It was just - it felt like the house somebody blew up our house. That's how it felt," said LaShawn Perry. "We are just a couple streets down. You would have thought we were right next to the explosion."

"We looked out the window and just watched my daughter's friends....their whole roof just collapsed. Right while they were in there. You could see like three houses just going up. There was nothing you could do but try to run," said Caressa Williams.

The American Red Cross is on scene helping those displaced residents and has opened a reception center for displaced residents at Emile Desauze School, 4747 E. 176 Street.

There is a Cleveland public school at East 176th and Tarkington - Emile B. Desauze. The school doesn't start until 9:30AM, so no students were in the building at the time of the explosion.

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