BROADWAY — An explosion near a Santa Monica Jewish center prompted police to evacuate about 100 people Thursday morning, but investigators determined the blast was the result of an apparent underground mechanical failure and not a pipe bomb as had been initially feared.

Sgt. Jay Trisler of the Santa Monica Police Department said no one was injured in the blast, which was reported at about 6:45 a.m. in the 1400 block of 18th Street. Officers arriving on scene evacuated people from nearby homes and businesses as they tried to determine what happened.

The Santa Monica Red Cross and other evacuees were relocated to the Police Activities League gym on the corner of 14th Street and Olympic Boulevard, said Bill Bauer, spokesman for the Santa Monica Red Cross.

The force of the explosion sent a piece of metallic debris onto the roof of a nearby residence, Trisler said. Police initially thought the debris may be a pipe bomb. The bomb squad was called out and determined it was not.

Investigators, including representatives from the FBI, were still trying to determine the exact cause of the blast Thursday night, Trisler said.

According to a statement posted on the Chabad House of Santa Monica website, nobody in the facility heard the explosion.

“During morning services today the police department came to Chabad House in response to a report of an explosion,” according to the statement.

“The men that were praying did not hear or feel anything. Rabbi Levitansky grabbed one of the new Torah scrolls so they can finish services, which they did at the corner of 17th and S. Monica.”

Dennis H. Kraft, a set designer who lives next door to the Santa Monica Synagogue, said he was meditating when he heard a loud crash.

“It was much louder than a firecracker,” Kraft said. “I looked out and could see a piece of what looked like a PVC pipe sticking out of the roof.”

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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