Four Hurt as Gas Explosion Rocks School Building

A gas technician and three maintenance workers called to fix a possible malfunction in the school's boiler room injured in a huge blast.

Four people were injured on Monday, two of them seriously, in an explosion at a school in the northern village of Beit Jann.

The four - a gas technician and three maintenance workers - had been called to fix a possible malfunction in the school's boiler room when there was a huge blast. They were evacuated to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, two suffering serious injuries and the other two with moderate injuries.

The Fire Service's Western Galilee commander Amir Levy told Haaretz that the school's heating system had recently been converted from diesel oil to gas. Inspectors of the Ministry of National Infrastructures Fuel and Gas Administration will investigate together with the firefighters whether the system had been properly converted and what had caused the spark that led to the explosion.

The explosion took place at about 1 P.M., while the students were in their classrooms. One of the teachers told Haaretz that students had complained Monday morning of a strong smell of gas, and a technician had been called in to check for a malfunction.

"I was in the classroom when an explosion rocked the school. Many students panicked but fortunately none of them were hurt," he said.

Large rescue teams and police forces arrived at the Druze village, as well as parents who rushed to the school to take their children home.

The parents' committee chairman Amin Abu Haya told Haaretz he intended to check whether the technician was called to check the malfunction during school hours.

"What happened is a big warning sign. Apparently we were very lucky this didn't end with a major disaster. An in-depth probe is required into the safety conditions and whether changing the engines from diesel to gas poses a danger to the students," said Abu Haya.

The Carmiel Police and Labor Ministry have launched a joint inquiry into the affair. Police station deputy commander, Superintendent Shlomi Cohen, said among other things they will check for possible negligence.

The Yagel gas company said its technicians came to the school to check what had caused the explosion, and will cooperate with the police and Labor Ministry. At this stage they could not divulge any further details, they said.