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.