A giant dumpster sitting at Miller and East Atlantic streets serves as a reminder of what happened nearly eight months ago — as well as the fact that many homes are still undergoing repairs.
The 3 a.m. explosion on New Year’s Day injured five people, destroyed two houses, and condemned another. Dozens of people were displaced from nearly 50 homes.
While many homeowners are still working out insurance kinks, they will at least get a few hundred dollars from their fellow neighbors to help them out.
“A lot of them lost windows, ceilings caved in, all that kind of damage and all,” said Ken Paul, president of Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC). “We’re finally at the point where we’re going to be able to disperse the funds.”
Neighbors have held a bunch of fundraisers since the blast, collecting thousands of dollars and a ton of gift cards. His team scanned IDs and handed out applications Wednesday night for the 40-plus affected residents.
Once the applications are verified, Paul said they will receive checks totaling about $400 each.
“It’s the neighbors giving back to the neighbors, that’s what it is,” he said. “We’re always trying to take care of our own, and that’s exactly what these neighbors have done with flying colors.”
The small sum is a welcome reprieve for affected neighbors who said they still have not received answers from the city. The exact cause of the explosion is still under investigation, though investigators believe natural gas may have played a part.
Shortly after the blast, Philadelphia Gas Works surveyed the neighborhood and determined there were no issues with its own infrastructure.
KYW Newsradio issued a right-to-know request with PGW earlier this year. According to the documents received, PGW did not receive any calls from people in the area of Miller Street complaining of a gas smell in the hours leading up to the explosion.
“The lead investigator, he’s going back over it and touching base with the other agencies involved, periodically,” said Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Dennis Merrigan. “But unless we have some significant developments, it’s probably going to stay open for a while.”
He assured that city officials are taking the investigation seriously.
“[We] lay awake at night thinking, ‘Did I miss something?’ and so on and so forth,” he said. “We like to wrap up the investigations and give the neighbors exactly what we know. But right now … [we’re] in a standstill.”