A powerful natural gas explosion rocked a busy Portland, Oregon, shopping district today, injuring eight people and igniting a fire that sent a huge plume of smoke over the heart of the city. Three firefighters, two police officers and three civilians were hurt and one of the firefighters was in surgery today afternoon for a broken leg, authorities said. None of the injuries appeared life-threatening. A building that housed a bagel shop and a beauty salon in the popular NW 23rd Street shopping district was reduced to rubble and its smoldering roof was splayed across the road. The exterior of a building next door also was ripped off.
Its windows were blown out, exposing the insides of what appeared to be high-end apartments, and debris was everywhere. Firefighters swarmed the scene and dumped water from ladder trucks onto the smoking wreckage. Structural engineers were asked to assess the building's integrity, and neighbors were told to shelter in place. The situation could have been much worse. Portland's NW 23rd Street -- nicknamed "Trendy Third" -- is packed with boutiques, bars and restaurants. Many of the businesses are on the street level with pricey apartments on the upper levels, and there's a day care in the vicinity.
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