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Firefighters battle the blaze caused by the 1968 Richmond explosion. (photo courtesy "1:47"/Ralph Pyle)
Saturday's explosion on Indianapolis' south side brings back memories of a similar explosion over 40 years ago in Richmond, Indiana.
At 1:47 p.m. on April 6, 1968, a natural gas explosion in downtown Richmond killed 41 people. Jean Harper, Associate Professor of English at Indiana University East and producer of a documentary about the explosion called "1:47," says the explosion occurred because of a natural gas leak at an arms and ammunition store. Experts say the gas was ignited from a spark that likely came from a gun being fired in the store's firing range. That explosion ignited a store of ammunition and gunpowder which caused a second larger explosion.
Harper says buildings within a 2-3 block radius were beyond repair. "The damage went down Main Street. Windows were blown out for a six, ten block radius and the debris that went up from the explosion was actually found several miles away."Harper says decades-old gas lines in desperate need of repair were to blame for the leaks. She says the gas companies knew of the leaks but because of the severe corrosion in the gas lines, the companies had a hard time getting to all of the leaks. Harper says the explosion made more people recognize the immediate danger of natural gas leaks.
For more information on the Richmond explosion, visit www.147film.com.
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