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Pressure buildup causes blast near LA-area Jewish center

An explosion that sent a 300-pound pipe ricocheting off a Jewish school and prayer house and through the roof of a home next door was an accident, police say.
Image: Firefighters on the roof of a home
Firefighters examine a pipe embedded in the roof of a home next to the Chabad House Lubavitch in Santa Monica, Calif., on Thursday. David Zentz / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

An explosion shattered windows at a Jewish school and prayer house on Thursday and sent a 300-pound pipe into the roof of a house next door where a child was sleeping, prompting a bomb scare.

"It was determined that it was not terrorist-related at all and appears to be some kind of industrial accident," city fire Capt. Mark Bridges said. No injuries were reported.

The explosion occurred at about 6:45 a.m. next to the Chabad House Lubavitch of Santa Monica, police said.

Someone was trying to remove a large pipe that was stuck in concrete near an alley but the chemical mixture they used created pressure and launched the 4-foot-long pipe and plug of concrete into the air, Bridges said.

"The device lifted up off the ground approximately 25 feet, punched a hole in the (Chabad House) and then ricocheted," Bridges said.

Authorities arrived to find the pipe sticking out of a hole in the roof of a house next door. Video from KNBC in Los Angeles showed a hole in the roof about two feet.

"There was a child that was sleeping almost under where the device landed on the roof, but fortunately it didn't break through the rafters," Bridges said.

Inspectors planned to talk to the person who was doing the work behind the house, Bridges said.

About 100 people were evacuated from a four-block area for more than five hours while FBI and Los Angeles County sheriff's bomb experts investigated.

Rabbi Eli Levitansky said he was conducting a Passover service for about 20 people when he heard a loud boom. "We were just wondering what it was, there wasn't any panic," he said.

When police and fire crews showed up, everyone realized the situation was more serious and left the building but continued services on the street, the rabbi said.

Authorities allowed some people back in to retrieve the Torah scrolls, said Estee Levitansky, the rabbi's sister-in-law. The scrolls are handwritten Hebrew copies of the first five books of the Bible.