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No injuries in Minn. apartment complex explosions

A series of explosions forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents of an apartment complex in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis on Sunday.

The explosions happened around 8:45 a.m. at The Preserve at Commerce, a 192-unit complex in Rogers, Minn.

Rogers Fire Chief Brad Feist said there were no injuries, but Police Chief Jeff Beahen said about 10 units were heavily damaged.

According to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, the first explosion happened in a large propane backup generator pavilion on the northeast corner of the property. Police and firefighters arrived to find flames and smoke coming from the generator. Gas continued to leak from the generator, causing several smaller explosions after the initial blast.

Around 400 to 500 residents were evacuated to a nearby motel and a nearby movie theater, the Sheriff's Office said. The Red Cross and Salvation Army assisted with the evacuation. Metro Transit buses were also brought in to keep residents and first responders warm. The temperature was around 10 below with a wind chill of about 27 below in Minneapolis at 9 a.m., the National Weather Service said.

"Everybody is really shaken," Beahen said of the people who were evacuated. "It knocked people off their feet," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Dillon Czanstaowski and Brian Dongoski, who live on the other side of the complex from where the blast went off, told KSTP-TV they felt the explosion before they saw it.

"I thought it was a car that drove into the building. It shook the whole building. It was crazy," Czanstaowski said.

"Suddenly it was just like, boom, and everything shook. It felt like somebody up on top of us, in the apartment above, dropped something like a fridge or stove, hard," Dongoski said.

Most residents were allowed to return home Sunday evening, KSTP-TV reported.

"I think the luck here is the generator system is outside the complex," Beahen said. "They are outside for a reason."

The State Fire Marshal's Office and the Office of Pipeline Safety are investigating the cause of the explosion.

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