Five injured in U.S. shopping center gas explosion

Screengrab via WHSV  ABC 3 official report

A fire in a commercial business area of Harrisonburg, Virginia has hospitalized three people, two of whom are in a "serious condition", as first responders continue to search for people and battle the blaze.

Tobia said when crews arrived, the injured were outside of the building.

The university said the other two injured people were not affiliated with JMU.

The trio had been standing outside the store when the explosion occurred, part of an Army ROTC running group which had been involved in a 10-mile race, the finish line of which was just yards from the explosion site.

All of them were transported to a nearby hospital, two of them with serious injuries, according to local media reports. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Firefighters responded to "what was described as an explosion and a subsequent fire" in Miller Circle in Harrisonburg, Mike Parks, the director of communications for the city, told the press on Saturday.

Gov. Ralph Northam said in a tweet earlier in the day that he was monitoring the situation, which he referred to as a gas explosion. Officials are trying to determine if others might have been injured.

"I grew up on a farm and I thought to myself 'That sounds like gas or oil.' There couldn't be anything that huge that would shake my house", she told the Daily News-Record.

Matthew Jenkins, a sophomore at the university, said he was startled not long after he woke up.

"I heard a loud bang and I was thrown into my wall", explained resident Mathew Jenkins. "I saw a big mushroom cloud".

The strip mall was a "total loss", according to Parks, and damage was also reported to other structures. In addition to JMU, it's home to Eastern Mennonite University.

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