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Two Homes Destroyed, More Than 50 Damaged By Explosion In Marengo

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two homes exploded in far northwest suburban Marengo early Sunday, and dozens more were damaged in the blast.

Residents near 7th Avenue and East Street were awakened by the explosion around 4:40 a.m.

"It sounded like a bus coming through my house," neighbor Jennifer Reher said. "I was screaming, panicking, didn't know what to do."

Two homes were destroyed in the blast, and crews had to rescue people from the second story of a nearby home that caught fire.

"The first battalion chief, on arrival, saw two houses that were completely gone. At that point, he pulled a MABAS box alarm, and tried getting more help in here to look for any possible victims," Marengo Fire Protection District Chief Robert Bradbury said.

The family in the first house that was destroyd was away on vacation, and neighbors rescued the family trapped in the other.

Two people who suffered minor injuries in the explosion were taken to Centegra Memorial Medical Center in Woodstock, according to a news release from the city of Marengo.

As firefighters doused hot spots for hours, investigators tallied the damage. Two homes burned to the ground; 18 others were damaged so badly they were left uninhabitable. In total, city officials said more than 50 homes were damaged, with many windows and doors blown out by the blast. Some damaged homes were as far as two blocks away.

Like most people on the block, John Ettner said he was looking at months of repairs to his damaged home.

"Knowing this is a long road ahead, basically," he said.

Officials suspect a gas leak was the cause of the explosion.

Neighbors said many homes had their windows shattered by the blast, and others were damaged by flying debris.

"There was a gas leak a couple houses down, and the people were on vacation. The house was all closed up. So it blew, and it blew – in like a two- or three-block radius – windows out everywhere," neighbor Deb Hamilton said.

According to the city, 136 homes were left without power as a result of the blast. ComEd crews were working to restore service.

The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and Metropolitan Emergency Support Services were providing assistance to residents whose homes were left uninhabitable.

Marengo High School, at 110 Franks Road, was being used as a cooling center for affected families and their pets.

Officials said some residents reported being approached by people offering home repairs. Marengo city officials said any repairs would require permits, and none have been issued yet.

"Residents should be aware that after incidents such as this one, many scammers use this as an opportunity to take advantage of residents. Marengo Mayor John Koziol cautions residents to be aware of this and encourages them to work through their insurance company to address any necessary repairs," city officials said in a news release.

Affected homeowners should call the city at 815-703-9707 to provide their names, addresses, and phone numbers.

The city said it will provide updates on its website and Facebook page, including information on when affected residents can return to their homes.

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