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Five dead, 12 hurt in US blast

At least five people have been killed and 12 injured, some seriously, in an explosion at a US power plant, as fears grow that the death toll could rise sharply.

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The massive blast – at 11:17am (0317 AEDT, Monday) on Sunday – reduced part of the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown, Connecticut, to ruins.

Authorities say 50 construction workers were in the section of the power plant where the explosion occurred.

Rescuers are combing the site with dogs in hopes of finding workers alive under the rubble, but there appear to be no signs of life.

“They are taking the building apart piece by piece now, the part that collapsed and came in, they are taking that apart in sections piece by piece, very carefully,” said deputy fire marshal Al Santostefano.

“We know that 12 individuals have been injured. Five individuals are known to have lost their lives,” said the mayor of Middletown.

Cause of blast under investigation

The cause of the blast is under investigation – the mayor said terrorism had been ruled out, adding that the accident happened during a testing procedure in the unfinished plant.

Mr Santostefano said workers for the construction company, O&G Industries, were purging the gas lines, a procedure he called a “blow-down,” when the explosion occurred.

A spokesman for the local Middlesex Hospital said it was treating eight people for broken bones, abdominal injuries, blunt force trauma and other kinds of injuries consistent with being caught in an explosion.

One seriously injured person has been transferred to Hartford Hospital and another is being evaluated ahead of a possible move for more intensive care, Brian Albert said.

Two people have been treated and released, and Mr Albert said the hospital was not expecting any more patients.

The powerful blast shook houses for miles, with some eyewitnesses describing it as feeling “like an earthquake”.

Kleen Energy Systems LLC began construction on the power plant in February 2008. The 620-megawatt plant was being built to produce energy primarily using natural gas.