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An attempt to steal a hot water tank set off a natural gas explosion early Tuesday that destroyed a home under construction in the Pratt-Willert neighborhood just east of downtown.

Fire Investigator James O'Neill of the Buffalo Police Department said someone tried to pull the tank from its connection to a gas line in the basement, causing a leak that ignited when the furnace automatically turned on.

O'Neill said the $82,000 home will have to be rebuilt after what remains of the structure at 295 Pratt St. is demolished. Two adjacent homes at 293 and 297 Pratt sustained a total of $2,000 in damage.

The blast flattened walls and sent shards of glass, wood and other debris in all directions.

No one was living in the house just east of Michigan Avenue, and no injuries were reported, but neighborhood residents were shaken from their sleep by the sound of the explosion after midnight.

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