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Steam pipe explosion buckles street in downtown Baltimore

Steam rises after a steam pipe explosion on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Baltimore, Md. The underground steam pipe explosion rocked downtown Baltimore Tuesday afternoon, buckling the street, shattering windows on cars and buildings, and gushing a steam plume several stories high for more than an hour. (Kenneth K. Lam/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

BALTIMORE (AP) — An underground steam pipe explosion rocked downtown Baltimore during Tuesday afternoon’s rush hour, buckling the street, shattering windows on cars and buildings, and gushing a plume several stories high for more than an hour, authorities said.

Five people suffered injuries that do not appear to be life-threatening, fire officials said.

The explosion punched a huge hole in the street, damaged two nearby hotels and covered parked cars in dust, asphalt and other debris. Firefighters sprayed water on one hotel so the facade wouldn’t melt.

The explosion happened just 75 minutes before the start of the Baltimore Orioles game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards about three blocks away. The game started on time.

Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith tweeted that nothing criminal was suspected and officers were on the scene to block to streets and direct traffic.

Although the steam had mostly stopped by 7:30 p.m., a dispatcher for Baltimore’s Department of Public Works said the site is still too hot for workers to get close enough to inspect the pipes.

A spokeswoman for BGE, the electric and natural gas utility in central Maryland, says the utility went to the scene at the request of the fire department, but the explosion does not appear to involve any of the company’s equipment.

Veolia North America, which operates Baltimore steam pipe network, had emergency crews on the scene and had shut off the steam, fire officials said.

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