Blast in Manhole Injures 8 Workers

An explosion in an underground vault injured eight city workers in the Westlake area Wednesday morning. The Department of Water and Power employees, all men, were about to start working on a cable in the 200 block of North Vermont Avenue when the explosion occurred about 10:35 a.m., said Gale Harris, a DWP spokeswoman. Four workers were inside the manhole and four were on the street, Harris said. The explosion occurred when someone underground touched the cable they were about to begin working on, she said. "They were testing an underground cable line and apparently it was still energized and that caused the explosion," Harris said. Fumes also might have triggered the explosion, fire officials said. "It was determined to be a ... fire that flashes from fumes," said Jim Wells, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman. When firefighters arrived, there were no flames, but smoke was coming from the vault, he said. Five of the workers suffered minor injuries and were treated at hospitals, Harris said, but three were taken to Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks. Jeff Hanson, 37, of Santa Clarita suffered second- and third-degree burns to the side of his face and his ears and hands. He was in stable condition, said burn center spokesman Larry Weinberg. Earle Hough, 36, of Littlerock suffered minor burns to his face and hands and was in fair condition. David Ybarra, 37, of Hacienda Heights suffered smoke inhalation and burns to his face, ears and shoulder. He was in fair condition, Weinberg said. Harris said the department is still seeking to pinpoint the cause of the explosion. The blast cut electrical power to more than 1,700 residential and a dozen commercial customers, Harris said. Crews were working late Wednesday night to restore power, she said.

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