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A passerby lifts police tape to traverse the sidewalk on Cedar Avenue across the street from the site of the New Year's Day fire January 4, 2014. Crews continued to clear the area where the building has been demolished, opening some previously restricted surrounding areas.

Photos by Courtney Perry • Special to the Star Tribune,

Sahra Noor, Director of Community Health for University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, left, and Jim Platten, Director of Employed Physicians, center, stand by piles of donated items for fire victims from Fairview staff members at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis on Saturday.

Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune

Man's death raises toll from Cedar-Riverside fire to 3

  • Article by: Brandon Stahl and Joy Powell
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • January 4, 2014 - 10:29 PM

A third man has died from injuries suffered in the blast that leveled a Cedar-Riverside grocery and apartment building.

Abdiquni Adan, 29, died Friday afternoon at Hennepin County Medical Center of “complications of injuries sustained in a building fire” the Hennepin County medical examiner said Saturday.

The other two men who died in the Wednesday morning blaze, Ahmed Farah Ali, 57, and Mrimri Farah, who was about 60, were roommates who had known each other since they were in their early teens, according to their other roommate, Mohamed Hassan.

Hassan, 36, said he left the apartment Wednesday morning before the blast to visit his sister.

“I know I’m lucky to be alive,” Hassan said.

At least 14 people were injured in the explosion and fire at 516 Cedar Av. S., six of them critically. The building housed a grocery and a 10-unit apartment building.

Cause remains a mystery

The building was demolished Friday, and by Saturday afternoon, the street barricades had come down in the 500 block of Cedar Avenue. A neighboring mosque was up and running with heating and power restored, said Battalion Chief Gary Piekarczyk.

“It’s wet in there, and they’ve got to get things dried out, but at least they’ve got heat and electricity,” he said of the mosque.

Investigators continued to sift through charred property and materials Saturday, with no fire cause yet determined. Officials have been focusing on some kind of gas leak as a cause, based on some tenants talking of an odor of gas before the blast, Piekarczyk said. But there’s no definitive finding yet, including whether it was accidental or intentional, he said.

“I don’t think anything has been totally ruled out,” Piekarczyk said.

“Fires always are pretty twisted and are hard to unravel. It takes a lot of effort, especially a big building that has so much destruction,” he said.

A spokeswoman for gas supplier CenterPoint Energy said the utility’s preliminary findings do not indicate natural gas leaks in ­CenterPoint’s distribution system.

Fast friends

Hassan said he lived in the building for about eight months after moving from the Atlanta area, where he met Ali, who had moved there from New York. He said he became close friends with Ali.

“He was a good guy who liked to help people,” he said. “If he had $10, he would give it to somebody who needed it. He would forget himself.”

Hassan said Ali had known Mrimri Farah since the two were in their early teens, and they had lived together in Somalia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He said the two were planning on retiring early and moving out of the building in two months.

Hassan spoke while at the Brian Coyle Community Center on Saturday, where the Salvation Army and Red Cross were helping survivors with assistance, including long-term housing. Hassan was the only person who came. Andrew Bredow, a volunteer spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said the group is reaching out to other survivors.

Hassan said he slept in his apartment the night before the explosion, didn’t smell gas and saw nothing out of the ordinary when he left that morning. He said the building was in good condition after being remodeled.

Hassan, who works in maintenance, said he has lived with family and friends since the explosion. He said the Red Cross has offered him housing for the next three nights.

After that, “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe sister. Maybe friends. It’ll be all right.”

 

brandon.stahl@startribune.com • 612-673-4626 joy.powell@startribune.com • 612-673-7750

 

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