Sep 10, 2010 12:50 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Death toll fluctuates in California blast

Fire crews flooded the ruins of burning homes with water early Friday after a massive explosion sent flames roaring through a neighborhood near San Francisco, killing at least four people and destroying more than 50 houses.

The death toll fluctuated as authorities began assessing the damage early Friday.

California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado said at a morning press conference that four had died, but State Sen. Leland Yee said the California Emergency Management Agency told him six perished in the disaster.

San Mateo Senior Deputy Coroner Michelle Rippy said Friday that officials at the scene confirmed at least four deaths. Earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported six dead, citing San Bruno Fire Captain Charlie Barringer.

More U.S. news Huge Calif. gas blast, fire kill at least 4
Updated 67 minutes ago A massive explosion sent flames roaring through a neighborhood south of San Francisco on Thursday night, destroying more than 50 homes and leaving at least four dead. Full story


Utility officials said a natural gas line ruptured in the vicinity of the blast, which left a giant crater and sent flames tearing across several suburban blocks in San Bruno just after 6 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET) Thursday. Fire officials said at the Friday morning press conference that the exact cause of the blast is still under investigation.

Maldonado said area hospitals had taken in 52 patients as a result of the blast and ensuing fires, three with critical burns. Emergency room personnel also treated four firefighters, he said.



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