New kitchen probed after gas blast wrecks homes

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The Independent Online

A newly fitted kitchen was at the centre of an investigation tonight into an explosion which injured 11 people and destroyed four houses.

A pensioner is being treated for 30% burns after the blast in her terraced home in Irlam, Salford.

The woman, in her seventies, was rushed to Wythenshawe Hospital. Ten others, four children and six adults, were treated for minor injuries.

The blast, which neighbours described as a "massive booming noise", happened at about 7.15am after workers from City West Housing Trust carried out major work in the property's kitchen and bathroom.

A spokesman for the trust confirmed the gas supply would have been disconnected and reconnected yesterday.

He said: "As part of the work, the cooker was disconnected at the start of the day and reconnected at the end of the day.

"The work involved jobs like new units, tiling and new floors, new cupboards and sink, it's not integrated appliances.

"A full investigation is being carried out and we don't have any information as yet."

The blast destroyed four homes and peppered passers-by with flying glass and debris.

Police put a 600-metre cordon around the site and around 200 properties were evacuated as engineers isolated the gas supply.

The trust arranged for temporary accommodation and Salford City Council used a nearby sports centre as a shelter for residents.

Sniffer dogs and more than 40 firefighters conducted a search for anyone who might have been trapped under the rubble. A fire service spokesman confirmed the search had ended without anyone being found.

He said: "It's too early to say for sure what caused the blast.

"We will be returning to the site tomorrow to continue the investigation."

Shocked residents spoke of hearing the massive blast and their properties shaking.

William Billinge, 65, was woken in nearby Silver Street by a "very loud bang".

He said of the houses: "There's nothing left of them.

"There is debris everywhere, all over the place. Four houses completely flattened."