UPDATE: Neighbors of Royal Oak Explosion Victim Can Return Home

City official clears the way for families to return home.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information.

3:22 p.m.: There is good news for Royal Oak residents waitng to reoccupy their homes on Cooper and Elmwood avenues. Jason Craig, Royal Oak's chief building official has inspected and cleared all houses on the two blocks, except for the two adjacent to the house that was leveled by Wednesday's explosion, according to City Manager Don Johnson.

3 p.m.: Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison released the following statement on Facebook Thursday afternoon:

"I am struggling this morning trying to get a grip on the tragedy that befell our community yesterday. A 58-year-old resident lost his life when a powerful explosion leveled his home. The strength of the blast was unbelievable. I got the opportunity to tour the site with the Fire Chief and Deputy Police Chief and got the latest updates, which are still very preliminary. Approximately 35 homes were damaged by the force of the blast. Some had windows blown out, but some appear to have significant structural damage. Investigators are on site working to delve into the cause of the explosion, which may take some time. In the meantime, many families have been displaced and are unable to return to their home, at least for the time being. I understand efforts are being organized to define how we as a community, can be of assistance to our neighbors that are suffering this loss. As details and opportunities to help become available, I hope that we can step up and let them know that we care about them and their needs. I offer my sincerest condolences to the family of the victim and to all of the people that are dealing with this tragedy."

2 p.m.: Royal Oak residents are trying to pick up the pieces of their day-to-day life in the aftermath of a horrific house explosion on Wednesday.

Residents of Cooper and Elmwood avenues had to evacuate Wednesday evening, after a house explosion at 4:55 p.m. sent debris and shockwaves rumbling through the quiet neighbor near the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Normandy Roads.

A 58-year-old man was fatally injured in the explosion.

Cindy Poulos, who lives in a house across the street from the house that blew up is now staying at a hotel with her family. She is the co-owner of Golden Basket Family Restaurant, 32286 Woodward Ave. in Royal Oak. The restaurant is open today though windows are broken and there are some cracks in the walls. 

"The only good part is nobody got hurt (at the restaurant). We had customers in when that explosion happened and they were sitting next to the windows," Poulos said.

Poulos said her home no longer has any windows or doors, because they were destroyed during the explosion.

“We moved into the hotel yesterday with our kids," she said.

"It feels very sad. We knew the person who lived in the house. It's very sad because that happened ... I hope they find exactly who's responsible for that."

Royal Oak Fire Chief Chuck Thomas was at the scene of the explosion Thursday morning to meet with the fire marshal, Consumers Energy officials and an arson squad from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the incident. 

Seven families affected by the evacuation spent Wednesday night at the Quality Inn of Troy, at 2537 Rochester Court, courtesy of Consumers Energy, according to Mary Wehby, assistant general manager.

Wehby said 12 families were checked in on Thursday and she expects more to arrive throughout the week.

“They are shocked,” Wehby said. “They have been through a lot.”

The Royal Oak Building Department will inspect all homes that were evacuated before residents are allowed to reoccupy them, according to City Manager Don Johnson. He doubts the adjacent houses can be saved.

"The amount of damage to those homes is much more severe in the light of day than it appeared to me last night, Johnson said.

In the meantime, the American Red Cross is on standby today if residents need help, said Allison Koenigbauer, regional communications officer at American Red Cross.

"We were on the scene last night providing food and water to first responders and residents, and blankets to those who were cold," she said.

As of Thursday afternoon, none of the families involved in the evacuation have asked for further assistance in terms of food, clothing or shelter, Koenigbauer said.

"Consumers Energy picked up the shelter part and we are ready to help if needed," she said.


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