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Ashford explosion brings back memories of similar blasts that devastated homes across Kent


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A huge explosion last week that may result in four houses having to be demolished is not the first to have hit the town it occurred in.

The devastating blast in Mill View in Ashford last Tuesday morning saw seven residents injured. The two most seriously hurt remain in hospital.

Tuesday's explosion left a home completely raized to the ground and two people with serious injuries
Tuesday's explosion left a home completely raized to the ground and two people with serious injuries

The resulting carnage had echoes of a similar disaster only six years ago.

On June 15, 2015, South Ashford was rocked by a series of explosions which gutted eight homes.

The emergency services rushed to Little Knoll where firefighters attempted to get the resulting blaze under control.

Fire crews battled to fight the fires caused by the 2015 blast in Ashford
Fire crews battled to fight the fires caused by the 2015 blast in Ashford

Like last week, dozens of nearby homes were evacuated, and a man in his 20s was taken to a specialist burns unit in London with serious injuries.

It was also similar to the Mill View blast in that people nearby immediately rushed to the scene to aid those trapped or left shaken in their houses.

An aerial footage of the damage caused after a series of explosions at homes in Ashford. Picture: Lindsay Renton
An aerial footage of the damage caused after a series of explosions at homes in Ashford. Picture: Lindsay Renton

The eight council-owned homes had to be demolished, leaving 10 people homeless.

It took almost a year until planning applications were submitted for the demolition and replacement of the affected houses.

Eight homes on Little Knoll had to be demolished and replaced after the 2015 blast
Eight homes on Little Knoll had to be demolished and replaced after the 2015 blast

The cause remained undetermined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for at least three months after the initial explosion.

It finally concluded it could have been caused by an unsoldered gas pipe but no further action was taken.

The HSE is still working on a case which happened earlier this year.

A home in Smetham Gardens in Strood was seriously damaged in an explosion on January 30.

Its owners, a family, escaped unharmed and had to be rehoused in temporary accommodation.

The aftermath of an explosion at a property in Smetham Gardens, Strood, on January 30
The aftermath of an explosion at a property in Smetham Gardens, Strood, on January 30

Neighbouring properties saw a little damage and did not need to be rehoused.

The results of an investigation into the cause have not yet been published.

Another explosion ended in a man being jailed.

In 2009, a property in Kemsley, near Sittingbourne, exploded with violent force and left Alistair Gray with serious burns.

However, he later transpired to have been the reason for the explosion and was sentenced to six years for what was described as "a very bad case of arson".

The large 2009 explosion was caused deliberately, resulting in a six year sentence being handed down in 2010. Picture: Andy Payton
The large 2009 explosion was caused deliberately, resulting in a six year sentence being handed down in 2010. Picture: Andy Payton

His partner of four years, whom he was living with, had walked out on him and he then doused her house with petrol.

Witnesses described Gray "laughing maniacally" as he exited the remains of the destroyed home.

The blast caused £74,000 in damage to the neighbouring property and £94,000 in damage to his then-partner's house and possessions.

Sadly, the explosion also killed her beloved Labrador, Cooper.

The road was cordoned off as fire crews attended to flames. Picture: Andy Payton
The road was cordoned off as fire crews attended to flames. Picture: Andy Payton

The then-38-year-old moved into her mum's house in Meopham, and told KentOnline at the time that "nothing can be saved but at least we are alive, I'm thankful for that".

Another woman who was thankful to be alive after her home exploded was Elsie Howland in 2004.

Then 86, she was thrown into her garden by the force of the blast which tore through her home in Abbey Street, Faversham.

Many surrounding homes were left seriously damaged after the Faversham gas explosion in 2004
Many surrounding homes were left seriously damaged after the Faversham gas explosion in 2004

She was treated in intensive care but was quickly in a stable condition.

About 60 firefighters tackled the resulting fire and helped those also affected by the massive explosion.

Octogenarian Elsie Howland was incredibly lucky to make a full recovery after the Abbey Street explosion. Picture: Simon Burchett
Octogenarian Elsie Howland was incredibly lucky to make a full recovery after the Abbey Street explosion. Picture: Simon Burchett

Two other homes were wrecked, four more suffered extensive damage and about a dozen others were also damaged.

Thousands of pounds were raised by the community to support Mrs Howland and all those affected by the blast.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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