Airport blast gives rude awakening

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The contractors had promised the authorities at London's Heathrow airport that the demolition of an old aircraft hangar would be "inaudible". In the event, the explosion early yesterday was heard seven miles away, and panicking residents thought the airport had been attacked by terrorists.

People living around Heathrow were given no warning of the impending blast, which shook them awake in their beds at 2am. It was heard as far away as Kew, west London.

The operation to demolish a hangar that used to house Concorde was carried out in the middle of the night "on safety and operational grounds", a spokeswoman for the British Airports Authority said yesterday.

"We had been advised by the demolition contractors that it would be inaudible, so we decided that it would not be necessary to inform residents," she said.

Local residents' groups were furious. Dermot Cox, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, said: "It is completely tactless to do something like this in the light of the IRA threats sweeping the country."