Everyone accounted for after Minneapolis fire, officials say

A survivor of the Cedar-Riverside blast told his harrowing story. “Outside is life,” he said. “I jumped.”

There was a loud boom, and suddenly the walls of Abdi Qobey’s apartment flew apart as he sat watching television on New Year’s Day.

He ran through what used to be his front door to find the hall filled with flames. He could hear someone shouting for help.

Wearing just a jacket, jeans and a pair of shoes, Qobey went to the blown-out window of his second-story apartment.

“I did not hesitate,” he recalled Friday. “Outside is life. I jumped.”

From his hospital bed at Hennepin County Medical Center, Qobey, 59, described what happened at 8:16 a.m. Wednesday as an explosion and fire destroyed a Somali grocery and 10-unit apartment building in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

At least 14 people were injured, six of them critically. Two people are dead.

A preliminary investigation has not yet determined the blast’s cause. Witnesses said they could smell natural gas. But a spokesperson for gas supplier CenterPoint Energy said the utility’s preliminary findings do not indicate natural gas leaks in ­Centerpoint’s distribution system.

A Minneapolis Fire Department spokesman confirmed that a body found Friday morning was that of the second and final person who had been unaccounted for after the blast.

The first body, found Thursday, was that of Ahmed Farah Ali, 57, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner.

Ali’s ex-wife, Hawo Daqare, said they were divorced in 2006 but had continued to share parenting of their 9-year-old son. “I feel very bad, but I cannot do anything. Imagine if you lost someone,” she said.

She said Ali lived in Apartment No. 6 on the second floor.

No official identification of the second body has been released, but family and friends said it was that of Ali’s roommate, Mrimri Farah, who was about 60.

“He was really friendly and outgoing,” said Darartu Abdi, a woman who works at a nearby insurance and medical office. She said Farah recently had stopped by her office to make plans to apply for MNsure. “He was looking forward to retiring early and living his life,” she said.

Farah previously served in the U.S. Army and at one point was stationed in Iraq, said ­Shareef Hassan, a friend. He had gone to live in Somalia and had come back to live in ­Minneapolis a couple of months ago.

Cause still unclear

Demolition of the building at 516 Cedar Av. S. was completed Friday afternoon. Crews from the Minneapolis Arson Squad and the State Fire Marshal’s Office recovered the two bodies.

The fire investigation continues, said Fire Department spokeswoman Chérie Penn.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said investigators are focusing on natural gas as a likely cause of the explosion that ignited the fire, although it could be weeks before anyone knows for sure.

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    Saturday January 4, 2014

    Thirteen people were injured, six critically, after an explosion caused a fire in the bustling Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

  • Fire chief, CenterPoint clash over natural gas as cause

    Friday January 3, 2014

    As a long investigation began into how the fire started, one body was found in the rubble of the Cedar-Riverside building.

  • Hazards uncovered in 2010 had been fixed

    Thursday January 2, 2014

    Two rounds of city inspections found bad equipment, animals and holes before noting problems had been corrected, records show.

  • New accounts from survivors of New Year's Day fire emerge

    Friday January 3, 2014

    Two survivors recall jumping to safety during the New Year’s Day fire in Minneapolis.

  • A second body was recovered from the rubble of the West Bank building that burned New Year’s Day. Imam Sheikh Saad Musse Roble presided over the moving.

  • Abdi Qobey had quite a story to tell from his HCMC bed on Friday. He was watching TV on New Year’s Day when the walls of his apartment went flying.

  • Members of the Cedar-Riverside Islamic and Somali community attended Friday prayers at the Brian Coyle Center because the Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah mosque was damaged in the New Year’s Day blast. Below: Demolition at the Cedar Avenue site continued on Friday.

  • Demolition continued at the site of the apartment fire on Cedar Ave on 1/3/14.] Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune bbisping@startribune.com

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