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Swedish police investigate Gothenburg blast after four seriously hurt

Pedestrians walk near the habour in Stockholm, Sweden, on Friday, May 22, 2020. Sweden, which has refused to close down schools and restaurants to contain the new coronavirus, is being closely watched as many other countries are gradually opening up their economies from stricter lockdowns. (Photo: Loulou D'Aki/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

GOTHENBURG, Sweden, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Four people were seriously hurt in an explosion and fire on Tuesday in the Swedish city of Gothenburg and police are investigating whether an explosive device was placed at the scene.

By Johan Ahlander and Helena Soderpalm

At least 16 people were taken to hospital after the early morning blast set ablaze an apartment bloc in a central residential area. Fire fighters pulled people from the building as grey smoke billowed out of stairwells and windows.

Three women and one man were treated for serious injuries, a Sahlgrenska University Hospital spokesperson said. Swedish public services radio SR reported that about 25 people had been taken to hospitals around Sweden’s second largest city.

Police said they had opened an investigation.

“We believe something has exploded that is not of natural causes,” Police spokesperson Thomas Fuxborg told a news conference, adding that something had “probably” been placed at the site of the explosion.

He said the fire was still not under control but that tenants had been evacuated.

Emergency services said they were working to put out fires in the apartment building. They ruled out a gas leak but refrained from speculating on the cause of the explosion.

Anja Almen, who lives in the building, said she heard a commotion from the street just after 5:00 a.m. — around 15 minutes after the explosion.

“I went out on the balcony and I was shocked. There was smoke everywhere, from every stairwell,” she said by phone from a nearby church to which she and other tenants were evacuated. “Fire trucks with ladders were pulling people from apartments.”

The Nordic country has contended with surging gang crime in recent years, with rival groups employing explosives and fire arms to settle scores.

A report this year showed that Sweden in the last two decades has gone from having one of the lowest rates of gun violence in Europe to having one of the highest. (Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom; writing by Niklas Pollard and Johan Ahlander; editing by Andrew Heavens and Timothy Heritage)

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