Man fights for life after gas blast

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The Independent Online

A man is fighting for his life today after a gas explosion "like an earthquake" destroyed three flats.

The man was rescued from the scene in Wigan, Lancashire, by emergency workers last night along with seven other injured residents.

The man, who has not been named, is in a critical condition with serious burns in Whiston Hospital.

Another man is being treated at Wythenshawe Hospital for burns and is described as serious but stable.

The pair were injured when a flat exploded in Blake Close, Worsley Mesnes.

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said the "top two flats in a block of three had concertinaed into the ground floor property".

The scene was extensively cordoned off for investigators to establish the building's safety and source of the explosion.

Such was the extent of the damage an entire external wall was blown away revealing the flats' blitzed interiors.

A fire raged for three hours and took 70 firefighters to extinguish.

Machine operator Ben Worthington, 18, lives across the road from the flats in Longellow Close.

He said: "It was like an earthquake and a bang at the same time. It shook the ground.

"Everyone ran out in the street and there were people running out of the flats.

"It was on fire and then it collapsed.

"I saw two men pulling an old woman out of the bottom flat.

"There was more smoke than fire at that time but it looked very dramatic.

"When I went over I heard someone say 'I could smell it for about four hours, now it's exploded'

"Then the scene was really busy with the emergency services."

Residents unable to return to their neighbouring flats - which are all council owned - have been put up in nearby hotel.

The six people not detained at hospital suffered minor injuries and smoke inhalation.

Police and firefighters will remain at the scene for the rest of today although there are not thought to be any suspicious circumstances.

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