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New York high school gas explosion: How common are such blasts?

Three people were injured in a gas explosion at a New York City high school Thursday night.

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    Members of the FDNY work outside after an explosion at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx borough of New York Thursday.
    Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
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Over 4,000 students scheduled to start school soon may have to plan otherwise after a powerful gas explosion ripped through the John F. Kennedy High School in New York Thursday night. 

The explosion severely damaged several floors of the school, located in the Bronx. The cause of the blast wasn’t immediately clear, yet authorities said a construction crew was working on a sixth floor gas line when it happened.

Three private contractors who were building a science lab on the sixth floor were seriously burned, said New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. 

The Department of Buildings is investigating the building’s structural integrity, added Mr. de Blasio. It houses eight schools yet it is not yet clear whether the damage will delay the first day of classes scheduled for Sept. 9. 

"If part of the building can be opened, if all of the building can be opened, we won't know until that full assessment is done," de Blasio said.

The country’s seen a number of gas-related blasts in the past few months. 

On Tuesday, a dramatic explosion damaged a Motel 6 in Bremerton, Washington. It destroyed a section of the building and critically injured a gas company worker who had arrived to fix a leak.

Another gas explosion in March caused a fire that leveled three apartment buildings in Manhattan's East Village, killing two and injuring 22 people, CBS New York reports. One year earlier, another explosion completely leveled two tenements in the city's East Harlem neighborhood.

“The vast majority of fatalities and injuries related to the nation’s network of fuel-delivery pipelines (both oil and natural gas) are gas-related,” The Christian Science Monitor’s Harry Bruinius reported following the Harlem blast.

New York City has over 6,300 miles of natural gas pipelines with an average age of 56 years, Mr. Bruinius reported.

“Even a small gas leak in an enclosed space can spark a catastrophic explosion,” Bruinius added. “During the past 10 years, gas explosions have caused an estimated $75 million a year in property damages.”

New York isn't the only city struggling to keep up with gas leaks. 

Officials in Massachusetts found 20,000 potentially damaging leaks throughout the state during the a recent assessment of the state's network of gas lines, The Boston Globe reported on Friday.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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