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I was lucky to avoid blast, says MP Sir Roger Gale

Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North
Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North

A miracle phone call saved Sir Roger Gale from being caught up in a city centre blast that injured 144 people.

The Thanet North MP was standing yards from three gas bottles just moments before they exploded during a political rally in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

But the dad-of-two was saved by a phone call he had promised to make in his hotel room - missing the explosion by just minutes.

The 68-year-old, who was in the city to observe the country's national elections earlier this month, said: "I was strolling through the crowds in Republic Square, trying to soak up some of the pre-election atmosphere. I was standing next to this chap selling balloons to kids and was watching what was going on.

"But I had told the General Director of the Armenian British Business Chamber I'd ring her at 7.30pm, so went back into my hotel to make the call.

"When I came back out, the square was full of smoke and there were blue lights everywhere. On one side of the square there was just a fleet of ambulances coming and going.

"Many people were seriously burned and some were in a critical condition."

The explosion was caused by a lit cigarette igniting the gas canisters, which contained natural gas and were being used to blow up balloons.

Harrowing footage of the blast shows a woman running away from the carnage unaware she is on fire.

"if death is going to get you it's going to get you. i could just as easy be hit by the number 11 bus or a boy racer in herne bay…” – sir roger gale

Sir Roger said: "I was incredibly lucky as I had been standing right next to where the bottles were. The man had been using them to blow up his balloons. He must've been badly hurt. It was extremely nasty."

During his years of election observing, Sir Roger has twice been caught up in gunfire and tear-gassed. The windows of his hotel were also blown out by a bomb during the 1994 elections in South Africa.

Speaking about his latest near-death experience, he said: "You don’t really consider the enormity of these things until after they’ve happened. I was just lucky I had to make that phone call at that time.

"But if death is going to get you it's going to get you. I could just as easy be hit by the number 11 bus or a boy racer in Herne Bay."

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