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Firefighters to enter blast site, described as a 'war zone'

Officials have determined it will soon be safe enough for crews to enter the site of a massive explosion in Danvers this morning after they said flames have burnt off most of the chemicals.

A hazmat team was in the process of removing a propane tank from the immediate blast zone. Firefighters hope to begin battling the smoldering flames soon, officials said at a 9 a.m. press conference.

The explosion at 2:45 a.m. knocked homes off foundations and could be felt as far away as New Hampshire. Officials were amazed that no one was killed. More than 10 people were taken to local hospitals, but none of the injuries appeared to be fatal.

State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan and Danvers Fire Chief James Tutko surveyed the damage in a helicopter shortly after sunrise.

"It looks like a war zone," said Tutko at a 9 a.m. press conference. "That's the only thing I can see. It's devastating."

An urban search and rescue team had done two complete checks of the more than 60 buildings that were damaged in the extraordinary blast.

"We are confident that there is no one in that area that has an injury or problem," Tutko said.

Officials have shut off gas and electric service to all the homes on Bates and Riversides streets as a precaution, Tutko said.

The blast displaced 300 to 400 people in the Danversport neighborhood near the Peabody town line. More than 100 residents have taken refuge at a Red Cross shelter at Danvers High School, officials said.

An estimated 15 to 25 houses may not be inhabitable for the "foreseeable future," Tutko said.

Investigators have not begun to determine what caused the explosion, but they reiterated how lucky it was that no one was killed.

"Somebody was looking out for us," said Coan, the fire marshal.

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