Gas explosion closes UWA

Published 11:19 pm Thursday, January 22, 2009

A natural gas line explosion forced the closing of the of the University of West Alabama campus Thursday morning.

“There was a small explosion around 9:20 (Thursday) morning behind Foust Hall,” university spokeswoman Meaghan Gordon said.

According to Gordon, no serious injuries were incurred as a result of the incident.

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“There were four possible injuries that were reported, although no one was taken away from the scene by emergency responders,” Gordon said. “We’re very fortunate no one was seriously hurt.”

According to an Associated Press report, the injuries occurred to two students and two construction workers.

The building, which houses the school’s athletic administration, art classes and the band hall that is currently undergoing renovation, did not have any classes in session at the time.

“Windows were blown out in Foust Hall,” Gordon said. “Pruett Hall suffered some minor damage.”

Pruett Hall, which houses the university gymnasium, was scheduled to play host to Thursday night’s home games for the UWA men’s and women’s basketball teams. Those games were cancelled.

Gordon said that the side of campus where the explosion took place was immediately closed and classes were indefinitely cancelled. Students were informed of the cancellations by the university’s emergency alert system and told to check back around 1 p.m.

“We just thought it was best to go ahead and close campus,” Gordon said of the administration’s ensuing decision to cancel all university classes and activities until Monday.

“We are thankful that the damage was minor,” UWA president Richard D. Holland said in a statement released Thursday evening. “However, we take campus safety very seriously, so we decided to cancel all university activities until after the weekend.”

According to Gordon, the decision was based in part on the need to keep individuals away from the site of the incident until investigators could better determine what caused the leak and explosion.

Gordon said the incident also marked the first usage of the school’s emergency alert system for non-weather related threats.

“We’ve used it for weather before. This is the first time we’ve had to use it for anything other than possible closing because of weather,” Gordon said.

The system, which notifies students of emergency situations via telephone, voice mail, text messaging and e-mail was first implemented by UWA in February 2008.

All classes are scheduled to resume Monday, Jan. 26.