South LA gas tanker explosion raises safety questions

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Neighbors are demanding answers after a gas tanker blew up in South Los Angeles.

The blast sent two women to the hospital and forced the evacuations of dozens of homes.

Eduardo Pena and his family were awakened Sunday by a scorching heat radiating through their closed curtains. He wondered first if it was an especially hot morning sun.

But as he went to check - the blast came. Shards of glass went flying into his South LA apartment.

They ran for their lives, learning later that it came from a gasoline tanker had been parked in a lot just yards away occupied buildings.

Hugh Helmsley, who had done contract work nearby, saw the smoke rise from where he was - and that was four miles away.

He got a panicked call from a tenant trying to evacuate everyone in his building.

"He banged on everybody's door - get out - there were a lot of flames and smoke."

Los Angeles arson investigators are trying to learn more about why that tanker was there and the activity surrounding it.

Neighbors say that it had been there for nearly two months. And it wasn't just parked there. A generator and pump were there, too.

Two residents were hurt. Today both are out of the hospital.

Federal EPA crews say the gasoline tanker had a 9,000-gallon capacity but they don't know how much fuel it contained when it exploded.

Fuel storage operations are heavily regulated. The facility had no permits or containment measures in place.

"There's about two inches of requirements that you have to have and these guys had none of it," said Robert Wise with the EPA.

Eduardo Pena is pondering the close call, with his children so close to the flying glass and fire. The Red Cross is helping residents with housing. And the insurance company for the storage yard is being directed to pay all the neighbors' damage.
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