33 homes uninhabitable after major explosion devastates houses
Blast inquiry looks into kitchen works
Early investigations into a huge explosion that completely destroyed three homes and left up to 33 uninhabitable are centring on kitchen improvement work carried out by a social landlord.
The blast originated in the home of an 82-year-old tenant of City West Housing Trust in Irlam, Salford, at 7.15am on Tuesday. It devastated three homes but the size of the explosion forced 200 households from their homes as the area was sealed off by police, ahead of structural surveys.
The housing association said that around 33 homes could be left uninhabitable in the short to medium-term and 10 may have to be demolished. Contractor Seddon had been carrying out improvement work on the kitchen of the property for the trust in the days leading up to the blast.
City West chief executive Tim Doyle said it was ‘astounding that nobody had died’. Eleven people were injured and the 82-year-old woman was left in a critical condition in hospital with 30 per cent burns.
Mr Doyle emphasised that the cause of the blast was the subject to investigation and was not known, but added: ‘I think it is reasonable to assume [at this stage] that there is some link [with the work].’
The sheer scale of the explosion, however, raised a number of questions, he added.
‘Certainly the intensity of the explosion would suggest a larger leak than from a single cooker. You wouldn’t expect a cooker exploding to be heard 20 miles away and windows to be shattered in properties 50 to 60 metres away.’ The Health and Safety Executive has launched an investigation.
City West housed 48 families in hotels the night following the explosion and said it would continue to do so until they could return to their homes.
Residents themselves were left dazed and confused in the immediate aftermath. Still dressed in pyjamas and dressing gowns, evacuees gathered at the Fiddler’s Lane Community Primary School and the nearby Tiger Moth pub to wait for news of temporary accommodation following the Silver Street blast.
Eunice Ward, 64, of Martin Drive, was evacuated to Fiddler’s Lane School. Her kitchen and bathroom windows were smashed in the explosion.
She said: ‘I was just about to get in the shower when all of sudden I felt this huge bang, and I saw this fireball. There were a lot of windows broken, and roof tiles fell off. I went outside, and it was really quiet. Then people started to come outside. I’ll never be able to go back again.
‘On Friday, City West ripped out the kitchen in the house that exploded. They were installing a new one. I don’t know whether that caused it, I wouldn’t like to say.’
Alan Strath, a paramedic with the North West Ambulance Service, was treating people at Fiddler’s Lane School. He said: ‘Many people have had to leave their homes without picking up essential medication, so we are helping with that. But we don’t know when they’ll be able to return. The mood is very sombre.’
Mother-of-two Stacey Lister, 21, of Neville Drive, lives just behind the explosion site. She said: ‘I heard a big, big bang, and the sound of glass smashing.’
Her husband Wayne, 25, described rescuing son Ryan, two, from among the smashed glass of his room. He said: ‘I ran into his room and grabbed him. I was walking all over broken glass. He’s fine, he was just crying and a bit shaken.’
A spokesperson for Seddon said its thoughts were with everyone affected and ‘we are giving our full co-operation to the authorities as they work to discover the cause’.
Eileen McCallion, landlady of the Tiger Moth pub, describes initial community reaction on the day of the blast. Credit: Helen Clifton