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Explosion destroys six businesses in small Washington state town

(Reuters) - An explosion rocked a small Washington state town on Friday, destroying six businesses in a strip mall and badly damaging an apartment complex across the street but causing no major injuries, authorities said.

The pre-dawn blast in North Bend was so strong it blew out windows from an assisted-living home half a block away, and several of the residents suffered minor lacerations, Eastside Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Josie Williams said.

The cause of the explosion, which occurred near a barber shop in a downtown strip mall, was still under investigation, she said.

Williams said there were no major injuries in the explosion and resulting fire, mainly because the businesses were all closed at that hour. North Bend is a town of about 5,700 people some 30 miles east of Seattle.

"If it had come two hours later it would have been a very different situation out here, we probably would have had some serious injuries if not deaths," she said.

The barber shop and five other businesses were destroyed, Williams said, and an apartment building across the street and nearby gas station also suffered significant damage.

Williams said some 80 firefighters from North Bend and neighboring communities put out the blaze and secured the area, and a major road running through the community remained closed hours later.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)

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