Published: 08:45, 04 May 2021
| Updated: 08:47, 05 May 2021
Residents have started returning to their homes after a devastating explosion destroyed a house and left seven people injured.
Two people are seriously ill in hospital following the huge blast in Mill View in Willesborough, Ashford, which shook the street at about 8am.
Emergency services in Osborne Road, near the junction with Mill View. Footage: KMTV and UKNiP
Images show people fleeing the flames, as others, still in their pyjamas, look on. A number of people had to be rescued from the rubble and Kent County Council, working with the Salvation Army, has set up a 'reception centre' to support those affected.
Neighbours have been evacuated from their homes and set up shelter at the nearby St Mary's The Virgin Church which was established as an emergency rest centre.
At 5.30pm, an update from Ashford council said the centre had closed and residents were returning home with occupants from the four worst affected properties provided with temporary accommodation.
One neighbour who asked not to be named said her daughter’s car had been damaged by the explosion and debris.
“It’s a bit of metal, it can be replaced but it’s the poor people who my heart goes out to.”
Teams of gas network officers end UK Power Networks remain at the scene investigating ahead of the clean up operation in the street.
Earlier today a police spokesman said: "Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service were called to Mill View, Willesborough, Ashford at 7.57am on Tuesday, 4 May 2021 following a report of an explosion at a house.
"The cause is yet to be established but at this stage the incident is not being treated as suspicious.
"A number of people were reported to have been trapped in the rubble and were rescued.
"Two people sustained serious injuries and were taken to a London hospital. A further five people were treated locally for injuries described as less serious."
At 11.30am police confirmed all residents had been accounted for.
This afternoon, people living in the area were warned to expect disruption to their power supplies.
The police spokesman added: "Work is now underway to ensure the area is safe and utility companies are at the scene.
Firefighters in action following this morning's devastating blaze
"Part of this work may result in some residents experiencing intermittent power disruption.
"Police are asking anyone who experiences issues and requires assistance to contact their power company or an officer at the scene."
The drama began when people living in houses in Mill View, as well as Osborne Road, Church Road, Willesborough Lees and by the windmill, felt their houses shake as the blast rocked the street.
One resident said it looked like a house was on fire and added: "There is debris absolutely everywhere."
Multiple fire engines were sent, as well as search and rescue teams, including sniffer dogs. Gas engineers have also been called to the scene.
A fire service spokesman said: "Crews are working to extinguish any remaining signs of fire following an explosion at a house in Mill View, in Willesborough, Ashford.
"Seven fire engines and a height vehicle are at the scene, as well as a team from the Technical Rescue Unit.
"Crews are working with Kent Police and SECAmb, including its Hazardous Area Response team, and the air ambulance has also sent two road vehicles to the scene.
"Two casualties have been passed into the care of SECAmb."
The London Air Ambulance was also sent and landed in Hythe Road recreation ground behind the homes in Osborne Road. It took off at about 10am with one casualty on board.
A South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) spokesperson said: “We can confirm our attendance at an incident in Mill View, Willesborough, Ashford, following an explosion reported to us shortly before 8am today.
"Ambulance crews including our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) have attended the scene along with police and fire colleagues. The air ambulance service also joined us at the scene.
“Two patients have been taken to hospital in London with serious injuries.
"A further five patients have been taken to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford with injuries thought to be less serious. We remain at the scene in support of our emergency service colleagues.”
A neighbour who first called the emergency services said "The initial boom hit my bungalow with enough force to open my windows, it felt and sounded as if my bedroom had been driven into. I rushed straight out in my PJ's with no shoes on to see the impact.
"At that point there was no fire just very light smoke, but glass, fiberglass, book pages and debris everywhere.
"I ran back into my property to grab my phone to dial 999 and coming back out to the scene the whole building and adjacent homes where engulfed in a huge blaze."
This afternoon, Ashford Borough Council said it had been supporting the emergency services, voluntary and community groups at the scene and helping residents by providing support at the nearby St Mary’s The Virgin Church, Willesborough.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, council leader, said: “Our thoughts are with all those involved by this tragic incident this morning.
“Having checked our property records, we can confirm that all the relevant safety certificates for the properties are fully up to date."
“Our officers are working with emergency services on the scene and are providing support to the local community including looking at alternative accommodation for those who need it and working with the emergency services to ensure the safe return to properties.
“Having checked our property records, we can confirm that all the relevant safety certificates for the properties are fully up to date. Our officers will be supporting any investigation into the cause of this incident.
“On behalf of Ashford Borough Council I would like to thank the emergency services for their swift response and the community who have come together to support those residents in their time of need. I would also like to wish everyone a swift recovery and let them know that the council is here to provide any support they may need.”
A council spokesman added short term housing is being provided for affected residents.
Anyone who needs support following this incident should contact Ashford Borough Council on 01233 331111.