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Apparent blast at San Diego building site; 13 hurt
Hotel Blast CALI101 7177511
Fire department and other law enforcement officials investigate an explosion at a Hilton Hotel under construction on the harbor in San Diego Monday May 19, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    SAN DIEGO — An explosion rocked a Hilton hotel under construction Monday, injuring 13 workers, five of them critically, authorities said.
    Three of the five in critical condition were in a hospital burn unit and eight other victims had serious-to-minor injuries, fire department spokesman Maurice Luque said.
    Some workers were burned and others were injured by flying debris, Luque said. The building did not burn after the explosion, which Luque said appeared to be accidental.
    ‘‘The reason for the explosion is not yet known. It is under investigation,’’ Mayor Jerry Sanders said. He said the blast damaged floors four through seven of the building.
    The hotel near the San Diego Convention Center showed serious damage and debris littered a driveway beneath one corner of the structure. Facade material dangled from the structure, drapes dangled out windows, and a large equipment room with tanks and pipes was left exposed.
    Firefighters searched the building to determine if there were any other victims. More than 400 construction workers were at the site at the time, Sanders said.
    Matt McBride, general manager of the Tin Fish bar about 150 yards away, said he was setting up the outdoor patio bar when the explosion happened. He said he and other workers froze as they saw smoke come out of the building but no flames.
    ‘‘It looked like a bomb,’’ McBride said. ‘‘It shook the whole building like a bomb. The reverb was what scared us. Everybody was saying bomb, bomb, bomb, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist.’’
    UCSD Medical Center in San Diego was treating nine injured, including three in the burn unit, said Kimberly Edwards, a hospital spokeswoman.
    The site was surrounded by firefighters and utility crews, and a truck with the markings of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrived.
    The Padres baseball team, which plays at Petco Park across from the convention center, planned to host the St. Louis Cardinals Monday night, as scheduled, said Sandy Alderson, the team’s chief executive officer.
    The 30-story Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel was scheduled to open by the end of this year, according to Hilton’s Web site. It will have 1,190 rooms and more than 165,000 square feet of meeting space.
    Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat contributed to this report.

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