Cleanup, investigation continues after Port Richmond explosion

Port Richmond explosion
Crews clear debris Tuesday, Jan. 3, after a New Year’s Day explosion destroyed homes on the 3500 block of Miller Street in Port Richmond.
Jack Tomczuk

Piotr Mardula was handed a small bin – filled mostly with paperwork – Tuesday afternoon.

Not much was salvageable after an explosion early New Year’s Day destroyed his 65-year-old mother’s Port Richmond house and sent her to the hospital with a broken leg and burns.

Mardula’s mother, Maria, was sleeping when the blast struck the 3500 block of Miller Street just before 3 a.m., and she was thrown out into the middle of the rowhouse-packed street. Her mattress likely saved her life, Mardula said.

“She’s conscious,” he told Metro. “She’s talking to us and everything.”

Maria’s boyfriend remains in critical condition, and three other people were injured as a result of the explosion, which destroyed two houses and left a third structurally unsound and dangerous.

Crews clear debris Tuesday, Jan. 3, after a New Year’s Day explosion destroyed homes on the 3500 block of Miller Street in Port Richmond.Jack Tomczuk

Forty other properties were damaged, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration said, and, on Tuesday, plywood covered the windows of many homes on the block, off Aramingo Avenue near Samuel Playground.

Everyone affected by the blast was able to find a place to stay, and around 30 residents stopped at a resource center set up Sunday at the Samuel Recreation Center, according to the mayor’s office.

Workers on Tuesday continued clearing the site where the two since-collapsed homes stood, removing debris, including a hot water heater and other appliances. Representatives from the fire department, fire marshal’s office, Philadelphia Gas Works and the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection were at the scene.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation; however, PGW is handling damage claims.

Crews clear debris Tuesday, Jan. 3, after a New Year’s Day explosion destroyed homes on the 3500 block of Miller Street in Port Richmond.Jack Tomczuk

In a statement, the utility company said it was not aware of any reports of a leak in the area, and Mardula said his mother did not report smelling gas.

“PGW regularly monitors, inspects and maintains our system and administers leak response 24/7,” the company said. “We investigate every odor call we receive and conduct maintenance, whenever needed.”

A rotten egg-like smell is added to natural gas to help residents notice problems. Anyone who smells such an odor can call 215-235-1212.

Port Richmond On Patrol And Civic, a community group, will be holding a meeting to discuss the explosion with lawmakers and PGW at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Columbia Social Club.

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