Published: 16:43, 04 May 2021
| Updated: 17:19, 04 May 2021
Footage from a doorbell camera shows the dramatic moment a council-owned house in a quiet Ashford street exploded.
The blast, which happened just before 8am in Mill View, Willesborough, left seven injured, with two taken to a London hospital with serious injuries.
House explodes in Mill View, Ashford
Now new footage shows the large explosion, which has resulted in a heavy community effort to rally behind those affected.
Neighbours were evacuated over fears of a second explosion, and the Willesborough community is working together to calm those residents' minds.
They were told to congregate at St Mary the Virgin Church in Sevington Lane, where food and drink is being provided.
A TV has also been set up, and books and magazines have also been offered to those affected.
Staff at the William Harvey Inn next door to the church has also been helping out, making sandwiches and teas.
Landlady Colleen Chapman said her son Jack Way - who runs Double J Boxing - was woken up by the bang, and immediately got to work taking milk as well as tea and coffee supplies to the church.
Her and a colleague then got to work. Colleen said: "Right away we started making teas and sandwiches for the emergency services and the church.
"We ran out of supplies quickly so Jack kindly donated more money for drinks and sandwich fillings.
"One woman was blown out of her bed by the explosion and she came here, while another man who was evacuated has been here since the morning and we've kept him stocked up on food and drinks as well."
Willesborough homeowner Mandy Rossi has been aiding in the effort alongside the ward's councillors.
She said: "We got down there at about 8.20am and helped coordinate a place for people to go to.
"The church helped out, the Salvation Army came with supplies and the local surgery has offered counselling to those who need it."
Ms Rossi noted the "mixed" reactions among those at the church, with some who are "absolutely fine, knowing people are working as hard as they can to get them back in their houses as soon as they can".
"They're chatting to their neighbours, reading magazines or watching TV, and you can see the Great British spirit of just getting on with it," she said.
"Obviously there are some who are naturally keeping to themselves and being a bit quiet, but the Willesborough Health Centre has been great in providing counselling to those who need it.
"The response is nothing less than we've come to expect from the people of Ashford - when there's a crisis like this, all of the community comes together and the outpouring of help is fantastic as it always is."
Among those who have been key to the effort is Rev Andrew Brown, who immediately opened his church's doors to the evacuated people.
The Reverend, who's been at St Mary's for three years, said: "The whole community has rallied around the church, which has become the main relief centre.
"The pub has been sending over food, the Post Office brought down cakes and water, Budgens from the top of the road has brought stacks of supplies.
"The Salvation Army, Red Cross and Willesborough Baptist Church have also been massively helpful over the course of the day.
"When anything like this happens, the local community rallies around.
"We've even had our local councillors here today, pitching in and moving furniture to prepare for people to arrive."
A fundraising page for the Mill View residents impacted by the explosion has also been set up by Ben Farnham, who runs the popular Facebook group Ashford kent Read All About It - an effort which has currently raised more than £600.
Ashford Borough Council officers are on the scene aiding the response, and the authority's senior members are believed to have held an emergency meeting today to decide on the next steps pertaining to support and temporary housing if required.
The authority has confirmed that the house at the centre of the incident is a council-owned property.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, leader of the council, said: “Our thoughts are with all those involved by the tragic incident this morning.
“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.”
And pictures of people fleeing after the explosion ripped through the house show the dramatic aftermath of this morning's blast.
If you've been affected, the council urge you to get in touch on 01233 331111.
Additional reporting by Alex Jee.