Cannabis store blast puts four in the hospital with serious burns

Madrid investigators say explosion occurred during marijuana extraction process in cramped basement

Firefighters at the scene after the explosion in the store known locally as Cañamán.
Firefighters at the scene after the explosion in the store known locally as Cañamán.© Emergencias Madrid

An explosion last Thursday in the Madrid neighborhood of Carabanchel was caused by an accumulation of gas used in the extraction of cannabis oil and resin a cannabis paraphernalia store in the basement of an apartment block at number 24, Guabairo street, sources close to the case confirmed.

Four young men were seriously injured in the blast and are being treated in the La Paz and Getafe hospitals.

The same sources said the explosion occurred while the men were harvesting dried marijuana plants for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), its principal psychoactive component, a process that requires the use of hugely inflammable Blau gas, which is sold in pressurized cannisters.

As published in several online tutorials, cannabis oil is produced by placing marijuana leaves into an extractor tube, into which the gas is pumped through a nozzle. When the gas is condensed, it extracts THC from the plant in liquid form, which is then turned into hashish resin by the application of heat.

They were naked, with their skin coming off in strips. It was dreadful”

Preliminary indications suggest that during this process, which should be carried out in a ventilated space, a naked flame was lit causing the gases to ignite. Investigators said that the basement measured just 45 square meters and was poorly ventilated, generating a dangerous atmosphere. However, the exact source of the heat that triggered the explosion is still unknown.

In the immediate aftermath of the blast it was thought that the cause might have been butane bottles but the Madrid fire chief, Carlos Arribas, discarded the hypothesis when it became apparent that those on the premises were undamaged.

Other early theories were the igniting of a flammable fertilizer of the sort supplied by the store or that one of the victims had been refilling gas lighters.

Six people were in the first floor of the apartment when the explosion occurred but all were unharmed. The four men in the room at the time are aged between 24 and 29 and are in serious condition. According to eye witness testimony, three of them ran from the store in flames and were attended to in the first instance by local residents. The fourth was rescued from the interior of the building. “I heard what sounded like a bomb,” one witness told news agency Efe. “They were burning, covered in flames.”

A young girl and a police officer were treated at the scene for light injuries

Another passerby told how the victims “were naked, with their skin coming off in strips. It was dreadful.”

Medical staff at La Paz issued a report last Friday stating that two of the victims, identified as J. J. C. and C. A., are in critical condition with severe burns covering 80 percent and 60 percent of their bodies respectively. Both have been incubated and are on assisted breathing apparatus. The condition of the third patient admitted to La Paz is unknown as his family have requested privacy.

The fourth man was taken to the burns unit in Getafe, south of Madrid, with second- and third-degree burns to 70 percent of his body, and first-degree injuries to his back. A young girl who was outside the store was treated at the scene for light cuts to her arms caused by the glass from the store window, while a police officer who assisted the injured men was treated for smoke inhalation.

After inspecting the building the fire services chose not to evacuate residents as no structural damage resulted from the blast.

Residents of the area told Efe that a few days before the explosion the store had taken delivery of a box of fertilizers. They also said that among the products available in the store are paint canisters used for graffiti.

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