Ameren worker killed in gas line explosion, more than 50 buildings damaged

An investigation is underway into a powerful and deadly natural gas explosion that rocked the small town of Canton.

CANTON, Ill. (AP) - The Latest on a deadly gas explosion in central Illinois (all times local):

4:40 p.m.

Authorities say three properties, including a historic Opera House, have been condemned a day after a natural gas explosion in the central Illinois city of Canton that killed a utility worker.

Canton Police Chief Rick Nichols said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that the Opera House was damaged beyond repair.

Nichols says 48 other buildings in the downtown area were damaged but can be fixed.

Ameren Illinois spokesman Tucker Kennedy says a third-party contractor for a communications company was installing a fiber-optic cable when a tool broke the gas line.

The explosion killed Ameren worker Arturo Silva Jr. of Mapleton, who was on a crew called to repair the line. Three other Ameren workers and several other people were injured. Officials have said the other injuries are not life-threatening.

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10 a.m.

Authorities have identified an Illinois utility worker who was killed in a natural gas explosion as 38-year-old Arturo Silva Jr., of Mapleton.

Fulton County Coroner Steve Hines identified the Ameren Illinois worker on Thursday, a day after the explosion that rocked a downtown square in the central Illinois community of Canton. Several other people were injured in the blast, including three other Ameren workers.

Canton Police Chief Rick Nichols said at a news conference Thursday that a two-block area around the square is still blocked off. He says it appears a contractor damaged a gas line while digging and that the utility workers were called to the scene. The cause of the blast remains under investigation.

Nichols says the blast's impact was "tremendous" and that it caused serious damage.

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5:05 a.m.

Authorities say the area around a downtown square is closed as crews assess damage from a natural gas explosion that killed one person and injured several others in the central Illinois community of Canton.

The Fulton County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency says early Thursday that secondary searches found no additional casualties and area businesses will remain closed for the day.

Officials say the explosion Wednesday shattered windows several blocks away and forced the evacuation of residents from nearby apartment buildings.

Authorities said the cause of the explosion hasn't been determined. It took place shortly before 6 p.m. after Ameren Illinois workers arrived about 5:30 p.m. following a report that a contractor had damaged a gas line.

Canton, a city of about 14,000, is about 30 miles southwest of Peoria.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

In a statement, Ameren asked everyone to keep the worker and his family in their thoughts and prayers.

We express our deep sadness and profound sympathies to the family of our fallen Ameren Illinois worker and ask everyone to please keep his family and the families of the injured in their thoughts and prayers.  The utility business is a close brotherhood, and our family is hurting. 

The cause of the explosion is still being investigated.


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