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Powerful blast injures up to 40 in Prague

Prague, Apr 30 (): A powerful blast assumed to be due to a gas explosion ripped through a multi-storey building in the historic centre of Prague on Monday, injuring about 40 people, rescuers said, adding that some people may be buried in the rubble.

The powerful blast also sent shockwaves through the tourist-filled Old Town area, shattering windows in the scenic district of beautiful streets and pretty buildings and stranding tourists on street corners with baggage-loaded trolleys, making them unable to get into their hotels.

The blast occurred on Divadelni Street at about 10 a.m near the National Theater, not far from the Vltava River, in a building that officials said located between the Charles University’s sociology faculty and the film and TV school of the university’s Academy of Performing Arts.

The blast was centered in the basement and lower floors of a multiple-story brickwork building, and its absolute power pushed a brick-and-mortar load-bearing wall approximately 2 inches in the building. The street was covered with rubble.

Police and rescuers rushed to the scene and treated dozens and evacuated more than 200 people. One of those injured was said to be in a serious condition.

Teachers and students from the nearby universities were frightened and ran out when the blast shook their buildings, fearing a terrorist attack, an unnamed student told Czech told.

Jirina Ernestova, spokeswoman for Prague emergency service told that about 40 people had been taken to hospital for treatment.

Pavlina Adamcova, spokeswoman for fire fighters told that rescuers were still searching the rubble, using sniffer dogs, and two or three people were still believed to be missing.

Reports say that the blast seems to be the most likely due to gas explosion as witnesses said that they could smell gas in the street.

Prime Minister Petr Necas said that he was “deeply affected by the tragedy”.