Image: Crater excavation in San Bruno neighborhood
Justin Sullivan  /  Getty Images
Officials look on as Pacific Gas & Electric workers excavate the crater at the epicenter of a deadly gas main explosion on Monday in San Bruno, California. State regulators have ordered Pacific Gas & Electric to inspect all of their gas lines following a deadly blast that destroyed 38 homes, severely damaged dozens more and killed at least four people.
updated 9/13/2010 6:27:02 PM ET 2010-09-13T22:27:02

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said Monday it was establishing a $100 million fund for victims of a huge gas pipeline explosion that left at least four people dead and destroyed 37 homes.

The money was intended to help victims meet their day-to-day needs and would be provided with no strings attached, said Chris Johns, president of PG&E.

The company previously gave the city of San Bruno $3 million to help cover its expenses related to the blast, Johns said.

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"It is very important that this community know that there are funds, enough funds, to be able to rebuild their lives and this community," Johns said.

Story: Calif. blast victim: 'We'll be a tighter community'

The announcement came shortly after residents of homes destroyed or badly damaged in the blast left a private meeting with PG&E and city officials. The residents were told they would be receiving $50,000 checks this week to get back on their feet, said Bob Pellegrini, 48, whose home was leveled.

Video: Raw video shows San Bruno blast

The checks would not preclude residents from taking further legal action against PG&E, Pellegrini said.

"The check is nice, but that's not what I need. I need a permanent home, a nice, safe place to live," said Bill Magoolaghan, 46, who also lost his house.

He was in San Francisco when his wife, who is eight months pregnant, called him screaming Thursday on the day of the blast. She fled barefoot from their home with their three young children.

The mood at the meeting was somber, especially when some attendees pressed officials to identify remains found in the damaged homes, Magoolaghan said. People who asked those questions were taken to a separate room by police.

San Bruno police Chief Neil Telford referred all media questions on fatalities to the San Mateo County Coroner's Office.

The remains of at least four people have been found, and authorities have said four others were missing and at least 60 were injured, some critically. Two other people reported missing had been located, city spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said.

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Coroner Robert Foucrault said investigators were still trying to confirm whether some of the remains were human.

Residents whose homes were yellow-tagged, meaning some damage, could have a chance to return to the dwellings as soon as Monday afternoon, said Aaron Aknin, San Bruno community development director. Those residents would be accompanied by building inspectors and given one hour to retrieve possessions.

Homeowners whose houses suffered major damage or were destroyed would initially be allowed to tour the blast area by bus and take photographs to submit as part of insurance claims, Aknin said.

They could set up one-on-one appointments later in the week to see their damaged properties up close.

Evacuees who fled after Thursday's blast but whose houses were not damaged began returning home Sunday.

Meanwhile, federal investigators were probing why the line ruptured and the explosion sent a 28-foot segment of pipe onto a street some 100 feet away while creating a crater 167 feet long and 26 feet wide.

Crews crated up the pipeline segment along with two sections from either side of the ruptured segment to send to a federal lab in Washington, D.C., for further examination.

Christopher Hart, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators want to speak with anyone who smelled gas in the days leading to the blast, especially anyone who reported the problem to PG&E or any other officials. Hart said investigators have not yet seen any record of gas leak complaints.

"We're pursuing those rumors, and we've obtained records — not only from PG&E but from other places where people might call. And so far, we have not been able to verify that anybody smelled gas and called it in," Hart said.

PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said there had been no gas leak complaints to the utility's call centers from the San Bruno neighborhood in the week before the blast.

Hart said investigators also want to talk to residents who might have noticed dead vegetation around the rupture spot, which can be a sign of a leak.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: San Bruno blast raises doubts about hidden dangers

  1. Transcript of: San Bruno blast raises doubts about hidden dangers

    WILLIAMS: Good evening.

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There was something about watching all those homes in California incinerated in that natural gas explosion and fire that made people think of their own homes . To see a neighborhood that was thriving just last week gone today makes you think twice about the dangers we all live with, in this case the pipelines, gas mains that crisscross the country and bring energy to American homes , hundreds of thousands of miles of them passing right under communities like San Bruno , California . NBC 's Miguel Almaguer starts us off from there tonight just south of San Francisco . Miguel , good evening.

    MIGUEL ALMAGUER reporting: Brian , good evening. Tonight the company that owns the ruptured line offered a BP -like fund, $100 million for families affected by the blast. But tonight, many of them just want answers. As new video surfaced of last week's gas explosion in San Bruno , the Pacific Gas and Electric Company began inspecting all 5,000 miles of its natural gas lines. The mandate, issued by a state regulator, was ordered to protect the gas company's 15 million customers. But according to energy experts, Thursday's disaster that incinerated nearly 40 homes and obliterated an entire neighborhood could have happened anywhere.

    Mr. JIM HALL (Former NTSB Chairman): This is a national safety issue because in many local communities, because of a lack of local rules and regulations, neighborhoods have been able -- neighborhoods have grown and sprawled over these high pressure pipelines.

    ALMAGUER: With no cause determined in the gas line rupture PG&E has come under fire for not replacing the 50-year-old pipe that ruptured sooner. The 30-inch transmission line , buried before homes were built here, was never intended to run under such a densely populated neighborhood. PG says the pipe appeared stable and was inspected twice in the last year.

    Mr. CHRIS JOHNS (PG&E President): We have not found anything in our records that would indicate that people called for that specific area.

    ALMAGUER: Nationwide there are 305,000 miles of natural gas lines serving more than 65 million homes . Over 50 percent of households are heated by natural gas . Within days of Thursday's explosion, California state leaders called for a congressional hearing.

    Representative JACKIE SPEIER (Democrat, California): Across this country gas is being distributed to homes , and I think the question that everyone's asking, 'Is this going to happen in my community?'

    ALMAGUER: In San Bruno , critics say PG&E neglected public safety. Watchdog groups called the pipeline one of the most dangerous in the country. They point to one of the gas company's own memos, which reads, "the likelihood of a failure at this location, unacceptably high."

    Unidentified Man: These gas lines are definitely a ticking time bomb, and that is why people are concerned, and that's why federal and state regulators need to intervene.

    ALMAGUER: But PG&E insist their lines are safe. Meantime, Bob and Tina Pelligrini have lost everything they own. This was their home before the blast. This is their community today.

    Mr. BOB PELLIGRINI: I'm sure a lot of other people are worried about what's running underneath their streets and their neighborhood.

    ALMAGUER: Tonight, PG&E says money for the blast victims who live in the neighborhood just behind me will never make up for what's happened, and they also admitted during a news conference today they're not sure how many of these big gas lines run through neighborhoods all across this region. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: Miguel Almaguer starting us off just south of San Francisco in San Bruno , California . Miguel ,

Photos: Massive fire in San Bruno

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  1. Emergency workers sift through rubble of a burned down home on Sunday, three days after the natural gas pipeline explosion. (Tony Avelar / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Search and rescue teams escort a cadaver dog through a destroyed San Bruno neighborhood on Sunday. (Josh Edelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. An unidentified man inspects the roof of a house labeled with a 'green card,' indicating that it is undamaged. (Josh Edelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Julie Frechette, left, comforts neighbor Janel Costanzo shortly after the two returned to their fire-ravaged neighborhood on Sunday. Police allowed some residents home for the first time since Thursday night's gas line rupture. Frechette and Costanzo, who live on Glenview Drive, suffered minor damage to their houses. (Noah Berger / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Hundreds of displaced San Bruno residents jammed a town hall meeting at St. Robert's Catholic Church in San Bruno on Saturday. (Tony Avelar / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The remains of burned vehicles and homes are seen Saturday near the site of a natural gas explosion. (Noah Berger / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A wrecked gas pipe lies on the street as investigators gather at the scene on Saturday. (Stephen Lam / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The sun rises on Friday to reveal rows of chimneys where homes once stood. (Peter Dasilva / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The explosion left this crater, which by Friday morning had filled with water. (Jeff Chiu / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Homes sit destroyed or damaged by the fire, which spread from the explosion that produced the crater near top left. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A for sale sign is shown in front of three San Bruno homes that were destroyed in the explosion. (Paul Sakuma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A massive fire roars through the mostly residential neighborhood of San Bruno on Thursday. (Jeff Chiu / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Cars were among the possessions destroyed by the fire that followed the explosion. (Paul Sakuma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A helicopter drops water on the huge blaze. (Paul Sakuma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Firefighters battle house fires Thursday night. In all, 38 homes were destroyed. (Peter Dasilva / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A woman is treated after the explosion. (Mike Adaskaveg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Evacuees check in with officials in San Bruno. (Jeff Chiu / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Judy and Frank Serresseque move their cats and a few belongings after they were evacuated following the explosion. (Mike Adaskaveg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A video frame grab from KNTV shows part of the fire. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. San Francisco firefighters monitor the flames. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A law enforcement official runs toward the massive San Bruno fire. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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