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Emergency services rush to flat fire after gas explosion in the Little Knoll and Oak Tree Road area of South Ashford


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A gas company has confirmed one of its engineers was working in Ashford yesterday before a series of explosions caused a huge fire that gutted homes.

Gas distribution company SGN said it was too early to say what caused the blasts but revealed it was working with other organisations on an investigation.

A spokesman said: "Our engineers joined the emergency services on site yesterday afternoon.

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Smoke billowing from the buildings. Picture: Kent 999s.
Smoke billowing from the buildings. Picture: Kent 999s.
A whole terrace of homes has been seriously damaged by the explosion. Pictures: KFRS
A whole terrace of homes has been seriously damaged by the explosion. Pictures: KFRS

"We understand several people are currently receiving medical treatment. Our thoughts are with them and their families.

"While it is too early to speculate as to what has happened, we are working closely with the authorities to help discover the cause.

"An investigation is under way and we will be assisting the local council to ensure the appropriate alternative arrangements are made for those affected.

Video: The aftermath of the fire - Kiran Kaur reports

"We can confirm we had an engineer working at this location yesterday however, any further detail concerning this is now subject to an investigation which is under way."

Firefighters have returned to the scene in Little Knoll, South Ashford, this morning to investigate a series of explosions, which sparked a huge fire.

Several people were injured in the blast around 4pm yesterday in the council-owned properties near Ashford Oaks Primary School.

Witnesses reported hearing four or five loud bangs and seeing huge plumes of smoke and debris raining down in Little Knoll in South Ashford.

Emergency services were back at the scene this morning. Picture: Paul Amos
Emergency services were back at the scene this morning. Picture: Paul Amos
Thick black smoke billowing from the homes
Thick black smoke billowing from the homes

Police have since confirmed they discovered a suspected cannabis factory in one of the affected homes, but it is not thought to have contributed to the explosion.

It is thought gas engineers had been working on the homes just minutes before the first blast happened and the Health and Safety Executive will be undertaking an investigation today.

An ambulance spokesman has this morning confirmed a man in his 40s suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation and a woman of roughly the same age who was experiencing breathing problems were taken to Ashford's William Harvey Hospital.

Several homes were destroyed in the blaze
Several homes were destroyed in the blaze
The badly damaged properties in Oak Tree Road have been demolished and replaced
The badly damaged properties in Oak Tree Road have been demolished and replaced

One man was treated at the scene for burns to his hands and face and a further five people received treatment for minor burns and smoke inhalation.

Emergency crews sealed off the area yesterday and Oak Tree Road is closed between Noakes Meadow and Little Knoll.

Neighbour Pete Collins, 33, who lives below the flat gutted by the explosion, said: "I heard a five-second boom. I got my dogs and myself out the front door.

Video: Firefighters tackle the aftermath of the explosion

"Debris from the kitchen window and bits of chimney from upstairs was just flying all over the place.

"Every single top floor flat has been touched by it. Pretty much my whole life's gone. I'm feeling stunned. But it could've been worse."

A spokesman for Ashford Borough Council, who owns the homes, said: "Anyone who has been displaced as a result of the incident will be found temporary accommodation as quickly as possible, hopefully today.

"We will do all we can to help those tenants recover their possessions once the site has been released to us, and with other organisations we will help them to get set up in their temporary homes.

Emergency crews remain at the scene today
Emergency crews remain at the scene today

"We understand that the HSE will be undertaking an investigation later today and we will co-operate fully with the investigation

"We will be setting up a welfare centre at Oakleigh House where several agencies will be on hand to offer assistance to those affected.

"There is clearly substantial damage to the buildings and we will be doing all we can to make the site safe for surrounding residents as quickly as possible."

A mother of one, who lives opposite the affected houses, said: "The first explosion shook the whole building, it felt like an earthquake.

"It blew the tiles right off the roof of that house. We don't know if we're on the same gas line as that house. We're shaken up and scared."

The woman said she had been told she could return to her home but had been warned to stay away from the windows.

Taxi driver Sue Whybrow, who also lives nearby, said there was one initial explosion followed by a large amount of smoke.

Emergency crews have sealed off the area. Picture: Vicky Castle.
Emergency crews have sealed off the area. Picture: Vicky Castle.

She said it was after the smoke cleared the other explosions happened.

A spokesman for the school said children were not affected and the school did not have to be evacuated, however some parents have reported difficulties getting to or from the school.

The top of one house has been blasted off, leaving the remaining walls black and charred.

Fire crews at the scene. Picture: Kent 999s.
Fire crews at the scene. Picture: Kent 999s.

The road was cordoned off, and earlier nearly 100 people were evacuated from their homes.

Fire crews were called following the explosion, along with police an ambulance.

At the height of the blaze six fire engines and a ladder truck were on the scene but this was reduced to four just after 6pm.

The blaze has badly damaged several homes. Picture: Vicky Castle.
The blaze has badly damaged several homes. Picture: Vicky Castle.

By 8pm two fire engines and the ladder truck remained, and the Red Cross sent a van to provide support for those whose homes have been damaged.

Three police cars parked at the entrance to Little Knoll with officers manning the road blocks and cordons.

Eyewitnesses said they heard five explosions in a row, with a column of smoke coming from the house each time an explosion happened.

Fire crews remain at the scene. Picture: Vicky Castle.
Fire crews remain at the scene. Picture: Vicky Castle.

A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said at the time: "KFRS is currently tackling a large fire in Oak Tree Road, Ashford, involving a row of buildings containing flats.

"A man has been treated at the scene by paramedics for burns and for the effects of breathing in smoke.

"Crews are using a main hose, the compressed air foam system and a 7m ladder to tackle the blaze. One of the buildings is well alight a second has a fire in the roof space."

Affected residents who need priority assistance should contact the council on 01233 331111 and then select option 3 then option 2. (Please note the message will refer to communal bins but this is where customer service advisors will be on hand to answer any questions).


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