SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – A vacant building under renovation was leveled Monday by a natural gas explosion that prompted the evacuation of a 2-block area of the Knightville neighborhood, officials said.

No injuries were reported in the blast, which occurred at around 9:30 a.m. Fire and rescue crews were at the scene, going from house to house in an effort to pinpoint the source of the underground gas leak.

The explosion shattered a window at a home on C Street, where Rocco Lee, 59, a disabled veteran, was just falling asleep.

“I thought I was back in Vietnam for a minute,” Lee told the Portland Press Herald in a story posted on its Web site.

The building flattened by the blast was unoccupied and was being renovated, according to Lt. Robb Couture, a South Portland Fire Department spokesman. He said a gas leak had been reported in the area about an hour before the explosion.

The fire department and Northern Utilities responded, and fire officials cleared the scene after the gas company inspected the site, Couture said. It was not until after the blast that homes and businesses were evacuated.

The neighborhood is located near the Casco Bay Bridge and the Mill Creek Shopping Center.


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