Displaced by the New Year’s Day explosion and fire in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis that killed three people, members of the adjacent Dar Al-Hijrah mosque have spent the past week searching for a temporary home, so far without success.
Their building at 504 Cedar Av. S. survived the fire that destroyed the adjacent building, a street-level grocery store with apartments upstairs, but severe water damage left it unusable, perhaps for months, Abdisalam Adam, director at the Dar Al-Hijrah Cultural Center, said Thursday.
About 300 people pray at the mosque, considered the state’s first Somali-American mosque.
Several churches stepped forward in the days after the explosion to offer temporary space to the mosque and its cultural programs; so far those churches are too far away or don’t have enough space.
Mosque officials said they will hold prayers Friday at the nearby Brian Coyle Center of Pillsbury United Communities, a cultural hub of the neighborhood.
At least 14 people were injured in the fire, including several who jumped from second- and third-story windows to escape the blaze.
The cause remains under investigation, said Chuck Brynteson, Minneapolis Fire Department assistant chief.
A spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy said last week that a preliminary analysis detected no leaks in the utility’s gas network; she has since directed questions to the Fire Department.
A witness reported smelling gas before the explosion, Fire Chief John Fruetel said at a news conference just after the fire.
Other survivors, including two who spoke to the Star Tribune from their hospital beds, said they did not smell natural gas before the blast.
The bodies of two men who lived in the apartments above the Otanga grocery were found in the rubble.
A third man died Jan. 3 of injuries sustained in the fire and explosion.
Mosque officials looked at one church, Trinity Lutheran Congregation on Riverside Avenue, and at space at nearby Augsburg College, Trinity pastor Jane Buckley-Farlee said.
“They are hoping to find a place close by where all of their programming could be in one location, but that might not be possible in Cedar-Riverside,” she said.
A preschool program run out of their building has also been suspended due to the water damage, along with a weekend program for teenagers, affecting about 30 children and 70 teens.
“We may have to be split into two locations,” said Abdikadir Ibrahim, who oversees the Al-Hikma preschool.
Help for fire victims
The Red Cross and Salvation Army have stepped in to help the victims of the fire. The Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota has asked private donors to send money to any Wells Fargo branch, with a note that it’s for victims of the Cedar Avenue explosion and fire.
Funds can also be sent to the Brian Coyle Center by calling 612-787-3730 or by going online at http://www.puc-mn.org/donate. Put “Cedar-Riverside Fire Disaster Relief” on all donations.
The Cedar Cultural Center, Augsburg College and KFAI Radio (90.3 and 106.7 FM) will host the Cedar Ave Fire Benefit concert Jan. 24 at the Cedar Cultural Center, featuring Spider John Koerner, the Brass Messengers, Martin Devaney, Phil Heywood and others.