Pacific Gas and Electric establishes $100M fund for victims of deadly Northern Calif. blast

By Terry Collins, AP
Monday, September 13, 2010

PG&E sets aside $100M fund for Calif blast victims

SAN BRUNO, Calif. — 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, Chris Johns, president of PG&E, said.

“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.

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 checks for as much as $50,000 this week to get back on their feet, said Bob Pellegrini, 48, whose home was leveled.

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.

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.

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.

Frank Torres of Thornton, Colo., confirmed to The Associated Press that his 81-year-old grandmother, Elizabeth Torres, was killed in the blast. He said his mother, aunt and uncle also were seriously hurt and remained hospitalized with burn injuries.

The coroner has not confirmed that Torres was among the dead.

Authorities began letting residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed return to the scene of the blast aboard buses.

Residents of homes that suffered minor damage would have an hour to recover possessions, said Aaron Aknin, San Bruno community development director. People whose houses suffered major damage or were destroyed would be allowed to take photographs.

Meanwhile, federal investigators were probing why the line ruptured and exploded.

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