Estimate on Indianapolis blast damage up to $4.4M

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Investigators have increased the damage estimate from the deadly Indianapolis neighborhood explosion by about one-fifth to $4.4 million.

Fire Capt. Rita Burris said Friday that damage estimate was increased from the previous $3.6 million figure after inspectors were able to check out more of the properties in the subdivision on the city's south side.

Officials say 32 houses have been deemed unsafe from Saturday night's explosion, with five destroyed and 10 with major damage. Burris says city inspectors might order the demolition of up to 10 houses and that insurance companies might have others torn down.

The Department of Code Enforcement has assessed 126 structures in the subdivision. A total of 86 homes were affected. Eleven had minor damage and 14 had no damage.

Burris says some 30 investigators continue working to determine what caused the explosion and that heavy equipment was being brought in to help move debris.

Until now, it has been a difficult and dangerous hand search for the source of a suspected gas leak.

Two injuries were reported by public safety personnel on the scene. One IFD investigator sustained a concussion after being hit by debris and one DPW worker sustained an injury to his foot after stepping on a nail.

"They are exhausted. These investigators have been working around the clock for the last four days," Burris said.

Investigators hoped to finish by Saturday, but now it appears they will work through the weekend. They are searching the remains of three homes and a field of debris encompassing 11 properties - about half of a neighborhood block.

"This is a big scene. It is one of the largest explosive scenes I've ever seen," said Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs.

Riggs says investigators are making progress and are finding items that may ultimately explain the explosion.

"When you and I look at that devastation, we see rubble. To a trained investigator, they see potential evidence to the root cause of that. That's what we are looking for today," he said.

Riggs isn't even hazarding a guess on how long that might take.

Dozens of families are moving to temporary homes. Repairing and rebuilding their houses may take a year or more.

Southport Presbyterian Church at 7525 McFarland Blvd. will serve as the hub for recovery services for the neighborhood. Displaced residents will be able to get services, referrals and vouchers.