Pregnant woman hurt in car explosion

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The Independent Online

Bomb disposal experts rushed to a quiet Kent village yesterday after a car mysteriously exploded, leaving a pregnant woman severely injured. Her two young sons were also inside but escaped unhurt after they were rescued from the vehicle by onlookers moments before it erupted into flames.

The incident occurred in Vigo, near Meopham, just after 1pm yesterday. Nearby streets were cordoned off and 40 families were evacuated from their homes and sent to a local community centre until further notice, as police and bomb disposal experts remained at the scene overnight.

Firefighters and paramedics also rushed to the scene before the emergency exclusion zone was put in place around the village, which is built on a Second World War army camp.

Kent Police were unable to confirm the cause of the incident. But speculation was mounting that the woman and her husband, both in their 30s, may have been victims of a sustained hate campaign.

Anne Lucas, 51, a neighbour, said the couple had been targeted in a number of incidents over recent months; these included having their car set ablaze, the brake lines cut and grafitti daubed on their car.

Vincent Redman, 17, an eyewitness, said the force of the explosion almost blew his windows out. "I went out with my mum and her partner and she was in the driver's seat screaming.

"Her legs were shredded – one was badly burnt and the other was all bloodied."

Jacqui Lane, a neighbour, said she heard a "loud explosion" from her house, which is outside the exclusion zone set up by police yesterday. "It was a really big bang – it sounded like something out of a war film.

"We went outside but people were just saying to get back. Then the police arrived and everyone turned back."

Michelle Davis, 44, who lives two doors away from the couple, described them as a "really nice couple". "They've lived there for about five years," she said. "This is a terrible shock."

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, was at a friend's house a few doors down from the incident when she heard an "almighty explosion which shook the foundations of the house". "It was like a car bomb," she said. "It seemed the moment she turned on the ignition, the engine blew up."

Kent police said in a statement: "There was an explosion in a car in Vigo that was being driven by a woman. There were people in other vehicles nearby at the time of the explosion. The occupants, including children, were not hurt."

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