No bomb or foul play in blast near Chabad House in Santa Monica [Updated]
No foul play was involved in an explosion Thursday morning near a Jewish religious center in Santa Monica that initially raised concerns about a bomb.
The reported explosion might have originated with a pipe under a walkway or perhaps with a malfunctioning device used to break up concrete, said sources at the scene.
No one was injured although there was apparently moderate damage to an apartment building and the Chabad House Lubavitch of Santa Monica, said Santa Monica police Sgt. Jay Trisler. Broadcast reports also showed a hole in the roof of a nearby house, apparently caused by falling debris.
Officials said they would be reopening streets and allowing evacuees to return to their residences and businesses.
The location of the incident, which happened about 6:45 a.m. in the 1400 block of 17th Street, was a walkway between the Chabad House and the apartment building.
[Updated at 11:47 a.m.: Rabbi Isaac Levitansky of Chabad House was inside the building at 17th and Broadway streets with about 10 people, conducting their regular morning service, when the explosion is said to have occurred.
No one heard any kind of loud noise, Levitansky said.
At about 7:30 a.m., police arrived at Chabad House and ordered an evacuation, Levitansky said.
“Nobody is hurt and we are continuing our work full-force, especially preparing for the holiday of Passover,” Levitansky said.
Some neighbors in the vicinity of the Jewish center described hearing a loud crash and breaking glass.
Eleven-year-old Eliana Lieberman said she was awakened by the noise.
“It sounded like a gunshot and then glass breaking,” the girl said.
Eliana was dozing when her mother came in and woke her up. She saw her ceiling was cracked open and some kind of object was poking through.
“It looked like space junk,” Eliana said.
Neighbor Christina Thomas, 25, also heard the loud noise, and police came by to evacuate her home.
Thomas saw the object sitting on the Lieberman’s roof. She noticed it was a few feet long and sticking through the roof with a hole around it.
Rabbi Eli Levitansky was among the group listening to his brother, Rabbi Isaac Levitansky, conduct the service at Chabad House when the pipe exploded.
Eli Levitansky said he heard a boom outside during the service. It was not loud and he thought it was just something from the street. They continued the service but soon police arrived and told everyone to evacuate Chabad House.
The group continued their service on the sidewalk near Santa Monica Boulevard and 17th Street.
The house where the object landed on the roof is a small white house set back from the street on the lot next to the Chabad house.
Sgt. Trisler of the Santa Monica Police said the evacuation area included the west side of 16th Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway Street and all of 17th Street between Santa Monica and Broadway.
He said some of the damage was caused by debris that had fallen through the roof of the apartment building.]
-- Sam Allen and Abby Sewell in Santa Monica and Howard Blume
Top photo: Firefighters remove debris from a home next to the Chabad House in Santa Monica after an explosion. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times