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Underground blasts at University of Oregon scramble emergency crews

A series of explosions hit an underground utility system Monday morning at the University of Oregon, and officials said the blasts appeared to be related to the campus electrical supply.

Nobody was reported injured.

Starting around 10 a.m., about five blasts issued from the tunnel system where power to university buildings is distributed, followed by a series of explosions over a half hour, said campus police spokesman Kelly McIver.

"It does seem to be an electrical system-related issue," he said, "... but no speculation as to the cause."

The reports were audible above the ground. A video clip from the campus showed puffs of smoke coming from a manhole cover, with an explosion that sounded as if someone were smashing a metal garbage can.

The student health center was evacuated, and power was either out or intermittent to about eight campus buildings, McIver said.

Late in the morning, McIver said firefighters had been assured that the power was off, so they could begin to descend carefully into the tunnel to find out what happened.

When the blasts started, two electrical workers were nearby in the tunnel system, but it's unknown whether they had anything to do with the explosions, McIver said.

"They exited the tunnel quickly and were not hurt," he said.

The university has about 24,600 students. Monday was the first day of classes for the winter term.

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