Claims Center Opens At Springfield City Hall For Victims Of Gas Explosion

Victims of Friday’s gas explosion in downtown Springfield began filing claims today [Monday] at a temporary processing center at City Hall, set up by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. A company official says more than one hundred residents and businesses were expected to seek reimbursement for damage to their properties.
Candice Lopes was one of the people displaced by the explosion filing claims at the center. Lopes, who is wheel-chair bound and lives about a block and a half from the blast site, says she and her husband were not injured when the explosion blew out their living room window, shattering some picture frames and cracking their television set. The couple was evacuated and has been staying at the local Sheraton. Lopes says for now Columbia Gas is offering to pay some of their immediate expenses.
“They are going to today give us some kind of debit card to handle our stay at the Sheraton, meals and that kind of thing. And clothes, we have to pick up because we’ve only been able to get into our building for about 10-15 minutes, and that was Sunday.”
Sheila Doiron, a spokeswoman for Columbia Gas, says claims filed so far have ranged from relatively minor window damage to total destruction. She says many of the displaced have not been able to get back into their residences to take stock of the damage. But she says it’s important for the company to take responsibility for what happened and try to help people get back to normal as soon as possible.
“We know that these people went through a profound event on Friday night. And it was very important to us to make sure that we responded as quickly as possible and got help in their hands as quickly as possible.”
Doiron says the temporary claims center will be open again on Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm. She says people who are unable to make it to the claims center can file their claims with a Columbia Gas representative through a toll-free phone number.