Explosion Levels Strip Mall in Toronto

TORONTO (AP) -- A natural gas explosion leveled a strip mall in Toronto Thursday, leaving seven people missing and presumed dead in the rubble. Four others were injured.

The blast started a fire at the shopping complex in western Toronto and tore a hole in the side of nearby home. Several stores across the street had their glass windows blown out.

A fire department spokesman said construction workers had been working on a gas line when the blast occurred Thursday afternoon. Four people were sent to a hospital with undisclosed injuries.

After extinguishing the fire, emergency crews used a crane and heavy construction equipment Thursday night to probe through the smoking rubble.

``I would say we're in a recovery stage of victims,'' said deputy fire chief Pat McCabe. ``At this time we can't find anybody.''

The strip mall contained four shops and five apartments. McCabe said one of the businesses, a beauty salon, was open for business at the time of the explosion.

``The whole building at the west end has collapsed into the basement,'' said Bill Hiscott of the Office of the Fire Marshal. He said crews were trying to dig through rubble on the east end of the building.

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