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Associated Press
Flames and smoke shoot up from a townhouse Tuesday in Ewing, N.J. A damaged gas line exploded while utility crews were working to repair it.

Gas line ignites in repair; 1 dead, 7 hurt, houses gone

– A gas leak and subsequent explosion destroyed at least 10 houses and damaged dozens of others at a suburban townhouse development Tuesday, killing a woman and injuring seven workers, authorities said.

The body was not discovered until late in the day, on a car near the site of the explosion, after authorities had thought the neighborhood had escaped the blast without any deaths.

Lt. Ron Lunetta said officials will await an autopsy for positive ID and cause of death.

At least 55 units in the complex were damaged, police said, including at 10 that were destroyed. Officials said most of the displaced residents would not be able to go home until this morning at the earliest.

The events leading to the explosion began with a contractor working to replace electric service to the house that later blew up, officials from the utility PSE&G said. Around noon, the utility got a call that the contractor had damaged a gas line.

Crews were repairing the line about an hour later when “there was an ignition,” PSE&G spokeswoman Lindsey Puliti said.

The force from the explosion buckled windows in an apartment complex nearby, said resident Marsha Brown, and pictures fell from her walls.

“It felt like a bomb,” she said.

At least one home was a blackened pile of rubble, and others sustained damage, including windows that were blown out. Debris was widely scattered, with insulation hanging from tree branches.