Explosion, fire outside Whitehall Hotel in downtown Houston injures 2

By Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor

HOUSTON - Two workers were injured Friday in an explosion and subsequent fire outside the Whitehall Hotel in downtown Houston.

The incident was reported about 1 p.m. near the intersection of Smith and Pease streets.

PHOTOS: Witnesses report explosion, fire in downtown

Authorities at the scene said that crews were repairing an underground circuit breaker in front of the hotel when the blast happened. The fire that followed shot up from the street, charring the side of the building, authorities said, but the fire never got inside.

One worker was seriously injured and another suffered minor injuries, officials said.

KPRC 2 reporter Ryan Korsgard said witnesses reported hearing at least one boom.

VIDEO: Explosion, fire reported in downtown Houston

"Just a muffled explosion," said Ken Knight, a witness. "I was coming down in the elevator, and all of the lights went out, and I got out of the elevator and saw the smoke here in the street and heard kind of a bang, and people started running around and said, 'You need to get out of the building.'"

"I did see the smoke come up and heard; the ground didn't really shake but I did hear kind of a bang," said Theodore Crawford, another witness. "I didn't know what it was at first until I saw the smoke coming up and walked over."

Korsgard said he saw someone who had suffered burns being loaded into an ambulance.

Someone at the scene told Korsgard that people were evacuated from the building when the fire happened.

Several streets in the area were blocked.

Officials said the hotel will be without power for the remainder of the day.

Leticia Lowe, spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy, said that power crews have been dispatched to the area. She also said the workers who were injured were not working for the company.

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