A large explosion ripped through a South Los Angeles neighbourhood on Wednesday injuring at least 17 people, in what local media described as a botched “controlled explosion” of illegal homemade fireworks.
Those among the injured included more than a dozen Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officials.
An LAPD bomb squad team was in the process of seizing a large stash of more than 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks when a bomb squad truck that belonged to them exploded, according to a statement from the police department.
A report by KABC-TV said the explosion happened as the bomb squad attempted a controlled explosion of the stockpile of homemade fireworks.
The explosion damaged homes, blew up a car park and shattered windows, leaving a pile of debris at the blast site.
“Unknown at this time what caused an explosion,” the LAPD said in a tweet, adding the surrounding area would be impacted for hours due to “evacuations, rendering the location safe, and investigation (sic).”
Nine LAPD officers and an officer from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sustained minor injuries, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Among the 16 injured, three individuals are being treated for serious injuries, while three others are being treated for minor ones.
Video footage of the explosion that happened on 27th Street and San Pedro Street, around 7.40pm, showed the bomb squad truck exploding with a loud booming sound, leaving a huge cloud of white smoke emanating from the vehicle.
In the aftermath of the explosion, videos showed the specialist truck in a wrecked condition, surrounded by debris from the blast, with glass from a nearby building shattered. Footage also showed a car park, right next to the truck, that was badly damaged.
The LAPD had responded to an anonymous call in the afternoon about the illegal stash of fireworks in a house, reported LA Times. The officers found thousands of pounds of fireworks and other improvised explosive devices which they had decided to detonate at the scene as they were “unstable to move,” officer Tony Im said.
A man named Arturo Cejas III has been arrested on the suspicion of possessing destructive devices and child endangerment after two children were found at the home.
Residents in nearby homes that were damaged from the explosion were evacuated soon after, while two homes were evacuated prior to the explosion.
LA mayor Eric Garcetti said he is monitoring the situation closely and is concerned about those who were hurt.
“I’ve directed the LAPD to conduct a full investigation into this incident, so we can better understand why this happened,” he said. “Illegal fireworks pose a great danger and can cost lives. We will prosecute those who use or possess them to the fullest extent of the law.”
The explosion comes after a massive blast at a home with illegal commercial-grade fireworks killed two people in Ontario. About 40 homes suffered more than $3 million in damage.
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