An Ohio apartment building, evacuated after a deadly explosion nearby, could reopen soon

A 16-story apartment building in Ohio may reopen early next month, several weeks after it was temporarily shuttered following a deadly natural gas explosion that severely damaged a neighboring building.

Youngstown officials had ordered the evacuation of the International Towers on June 10 after an engineering firm determined that the neighboring Realty Tower building remained structurally unsafe and was in “danger of imminent collapse.” Another nearby building, which houses the city’s only hotel, was also ordered closed.

City officials said this week that enough of the Realty Tower should be demolished by Aug. 2 and that the two shuttered buildings could reopen by that day. It's hoped that demolition work will start at the Realty Tower next week, but officials said the work schedule remains fluid.

The May 28 explosion blew out much of the ground floor of Realty Tower, killing a bank employee and injuring several others. Part of the ground floor collapsed into its basement and sent the facade across the street. Bricks, glass and other debris littered the sidewalk outside the 13-story building, which had a Chase Bank branch at street level and apartments in upper floors.

A crew working in the building’s basement area intentionally cut a gas line, not knowing it was pressurized, according to a preliminary finding by the National Transportation Safety Board. Investigators are still working to determine why the pipe was pressurized.