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By PAT EATON-ROBB and JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press Writers

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – An explosion blew apart a power plant under construction as workers purged natural gas lines Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring a dozen or more in a blast that shook homes for miles, officials said.

Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said at a late-afternoon news conference that five people were known dead and at least 12 injured.

Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano told The Associated Press before a news conference Sunday evening that crews were still searching for survivors in the rubble at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown, about 20 miles south of Hartford.

Santostefano earlier said about 50 people were in the area around 11:17 a.m., when the explosion occurred. The mayor said at the news conference it was difficult to tell how many people were at the plant because multiple contractors were working on it with their own employee lists.

“They’re trying to figure out who was on the job today, and where are they now?” Giuliano said.

The 620-megawatt plant was being built to produce energy primarily using natural gas. Santostefano said workers for the construction company, O&G Industries, were purging the gas lines, a procedure he called a “blow-down,” when the explosion occurred.

Lynn Hawley, 54, of Hartland, Conn., told the AP that her son, Brian Hawley, 36, is a pipefitter at the plant. He called her from his cell phone to say he was being rushed to Middlesex Hospital.

“He really couldn’t say what happened to him,” she said. “He was in a lot of pain, and they got him into surgery as quickly as possible.”

She said he had a broken leg and was expected to survive.

Officials had not released the conditions of the other injured people by late Sunday afternoon, but hospitals reported some seriously injured patients.

The thundering blast shook houses for miles.

“I felt the house shake, I thought a tree fell on the house,” said Middletown resident Steve Clark.

Barrett Robbins-Pianka, who lives about a mile away and has monitored the project for years, said she was running outside and heard what she called “a tremendous boom.”

“I thought it might be some test or something, but it was really loud, a definite explosion,” she said.

Kleen Energy Systems LLC began construction on the power plant in February 2008. It had signed a capacity deal with Connecticut Light and Power for the electricity produced by the plant. Construction was scheduled to be completed by mid-2010.

The company is run by president and former Middletown City Council member William Corvo. A message left at Corvo’s home was not immediately returned.

Calls to Gordon Holk, general manager of Power Plant Management Services, which has a contract to manage the plant, weren’t immediately returned.

Plants powered by natural gas are taking on a much larger role in generating electricity for the U.S. Gas emits about half the greenhouse gases of coal-fired plants and new technology has allowed natural gas companies to begin to unlock gas supplies that could total more than 100 years at current usage levels.

Natural gas is used to make about a fifth of the nation’s electricity.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell was on her way Sunday afternoon to the site after speaking with Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, and called out a specialized search and rescue team to help firefighters.

The state’s Emergency Operations Center in Hartford also was activated, and the Department of Public Health was called to provide tents at the scene for shelter and medical triage.

Rell said the emergency teams were expected to work through the night and into Monday.

Daniel Horowitz, a spokesman with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, said the agency is mobilizing an investigation team from Colorado and hopes to have the workers on the scene Monday.

Safety board investigators have done extensive work on the issue of gas line purging since an explosion last year at a Slim Jim factory in North Carolina killed four people. They’ve identified other explosions caused by workers who were unsafely venting gas lines inside buildings.

The board voted last week to recommend that national and international code writers strengthen their guidelines to require outdoor venting of gas lines or an approved safety plan to do it indoors.

In February 2009, an explosion at a We Energies coal-fired power plant near Milwaukee burned six workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still investigating.

In the past few years, an explosion at a Dominion Virginia Power coal-fired plant in Massachusetts killed three workers in November 2007, while one worker and nine others were injured at an American Electric Power plant of the same type in Beverly, Ohio, in January 2007.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Stephanie Reitz in Glastonbury, Conn.; Mark Williams in Columbus, Ohio; Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C.; and Anne D’Innocenzio in New York.

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Today, picked pocket, snatched theft and stealing are considered as a part of our everyday lives in KL (and also other cities and town in Malaysia). It is very unfortunate that more people are getting so ruthless and commit crime openly.

A few months ago someone smashed the window of my aunty’s car. The car was parked at a well lighted parking lot (outside a restaurant) by a busy main road near Ampang Point (refer to ‘A Sad Incident In Ampang’). Last week my sister saw a man took something from her teacher’s car after smashing the car’s windows in the bright daylight. The car was parked in front of her school (by a busy road). And my mom was so close to become another victim of snacthed theft only that Alhamdulillah she did not carry her handbag on that occasion.

My siblings and I used to be able to run around and enjoy ourselves in parks and playgrounds; but now our parents won’t dare to let us out of their sight in those places. And I dare not go to my neighbour’s house next door without at least having my sister Aeshah watching over… Unsecured? How else can we feel when kids were kidnapped, abducted and some were even killed for no reason; for example the tragic cases of Allahyarhamah Nurin Jazlin and Sharlinie.

Is this a part of civilisation? Or is this a price to pay as we become a more developed nation? How odd when all these nasty incidents are almost unheard of in Columbus (Ohio), Palo Alto (the city of the prestigious Stanford University, California), Chicago or in San Francisco (except in slum areas).

I hope that we can put a stop to all these problems. And we could Insya Allah if we are willing to help each other to make our world a better place to live in (please refer to ‘Our Solution To A Better Future’).

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Ahmad Ali is my five years old little brother. He is a wonderful boy. He will be starting his own blog soon. He kept begging and begging my father everyday to start his own blog. As you might be wondering who he is, let me tell you a few things about him…

He can sing and understand The Alphabet song when he was two. He can also point the ABC’s while singing it. When he was three, he started to read and by the end of the year, he can already read simple texts such as a 1st Grade textbook. He started to write stories last year and they are getting better and better everyday.

He is not only good in writing but also in computers. He can set up a powerpoint presentation full of animations with a few different videos playing all at once when he was just three. When I saw him, I was stunned. Even I (at the time eleven years old) could not do what he is doing. My father thought that it was a coincidence but when he asked him to switch it off and start all over again, he can finish it quickly.

Two years ago when we went to USA, we visited one of my father’s friend in Ohio, Uncle Arif. When he saw Ali making a powerpoint presentation full with animations, he exclaimed, “He is a computer wizard!” And that is just who he is. By the way, speaking of Uncle Arif reminds me of Aunty Huda’s sushi. It was the tastiest in the world. I can still taste it and I wish I can have more.

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