COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — Cleanup and recovery efforts continued Tuesday after a natural gas explosion erupted at a shopping center complex in Columbia early Sunday morning.

Property owners, managers, and insurance agents have spent the last few days assessing the damage caused by the explosion.

Rohit Chawla is the owner of Mango Grove Restaurant. He is one of 22 businesses displaced as a result of the natural gas explosion inside of the popular shopping center.

“Looking at that explosion this could have been really bad,” Chawla said.

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Over the last few days, Chawla and other business owners have been escorted inside their establishments to collect anything of importance. For some, however, the situation proves too dangerous to even chance to step inside.

“Employers are now getting back to us with their space needs so that we can help match them with new, temporary locations,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said.

This all started Sunday morning before any of the storefronts were open for business.

Timeline:

  • At 6:59 a.m. The Howard County Fire Department was notified of a gas leak
  • At 7:01 a.m. firefighters arrived on scene
  • At 7:08 a.m. everyone in the area was evacuated
  • By 7:33 a.m. BGE arrived on scene
  • At 7:58 a.m. something inside the building exploded

Customers tell WJZ that if this had happened just a few hours later they would have been stopping in for a pot of coffee, dropping clothes off at the tailor, or taking a fitness class at the local studio.

“It definitely hit home because this is where I bring my things,” Felicia Smith said.

“A lot of people could have been injured or died,” Dennis Plouff said.

BGE, Howard County Fire and Police continue to investigate the cause of the explosion.

BGE said that it completed a safety inspection of the area and found no issues with the gas equipment.

Rachel Menitoff

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