Jersey explosion: no survivors found in search after St Helier blast destroys block of flats
Rescuers searching the scene of the explosion in Jersey have said they ‘expect to find more’ bodies, with around 12 residents still missing
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Rescuers searching the scene of an explosion in Jersey in which three people have been confirmed dead said they “expect to find more” bodies, with around 12 residents still missing.
Specialist teams who spent the night combing the wreckage in St Helier, on the south of the island, said their mission is now a “recovery operation”. Robin Smith, chief of Jersey Police, said that these specialist teams will continue their “meticulous and painstaking search” of the area in St Helier and warned it is likely to be “weeks” before investigations are completed.
It came after police said they believed “around a dozen” people are missing following the blast which destroyed a block of flats at around 4am on Saturday.
Smith told a press conference on Sunday: “We have moved to a recovery stage, it’s a moment to think about the families.
“We have deployed family liaison officers to the families; it’s utterly important we are sensitive to their emotions as we begin a meticulous and painstaking search of the debris following the explosion.”
He added: “We are not going to be here for days, we are going to be here for weeks, and it’s important I make that clear.
“It is not going to happen quickly, it’s going to happen carefully and sensitively.”
Smith added it “looks likely” that the blast was a gas explosion but this has not been confirmed.
Specialist teams from other parts of the UK, including the Isle of Wight and Hampshire, have been drafted in to aid the response.
Jersey chief fire officer Paul Brown acknowledged that something had gone “horribly wrong” and his service will be “co-operating fully” and “transparently” with investigations into what caused the blast.
Brown also confirmed that firefighters had been called to the building at 8.36pm on Friday and had carried out investigations after residents reported smelling gas – just hours before the blast.
Chief Minister Kristina Moore said at least three people had been killed, describing the incident as an “unimaginable tragedy” for the Channel Island.
Andium Homes, a state-owned but independent company which rents out thousands of properties on the island, said it is focusing on supporting residents at the estate.
Gas supplier Island Energy said it was working with the fire service to “understand exactly what has happened”.
At a press conferrence on Saturday (10 December), Smith said the force received reports of a “large explosion” at around 4am on Saturday at a block of flats in Pier Road, St Helier.
A resident who lives across the bay from the block of flats hit by the explosion in Jersey said his bedroom was “shaken” by the blast.
Daniel Hunt, a 19-year-old data administrator, told PA the explosion woke him at around 4am.
“My bedroom was shaken from the explosion with the windows rattling, which was all very unnerving,” he said.
“I went outside to take a look… I could see what looked like police and firefighters shining torches through windows of surrounding buildings.
“I assume as they were evacuating the surrounding area. The building (was) up in flames with smoke pouring out of the windows.”
“To have this happen so close and so early in the morning you don’t know what to think.”
Additional reporting by PA