An Ohio apartment building that was evacuated after a deadly explosion nearby could soon reopen

By BRUCE SHIPKOWSKI – Associated Press

A 16-story apartment building in Ohio could reopen early next month, several weeks after it was forced to temporarily close following a deadly natural gas explosion that severely damaged a neighboring building.

Youngstown authorities ordered the evacuation of the International Towers on June 10 after an engineering firm found the neighboring Realty Tower building to be dilapidated and in “imminent danger of collapse.” Another building nearby, which houses the city’s only hotel, was also ordered to close.

City officials said this week that much of Realty Tower should be demolished by Aug. 2 and that the two closed buildings could reopen by then. There is hope that demolition work on Realty Tower can begin next week, but officials said the work schedule is still open.

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The May 28 explosion blew away large sections of the ground floor of the Realty Tower, killing one bank employee and injuring several others. Parts of the ground floor collapsed into the basement and the facade fell across the street. Bricks, glass and other debris were scattered on the sidewalk in front of the 13-story building, which housed a Chase Bank branch on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors.

A crew working in the building’s basement intentionally severed a gas line without knowing it was pressurized, according to a preliminary finding by the National Transportation Safety Board. Investigators are still trying to determine why the line was pressurized.

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