Three children killed in Edinburgh gas blast

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The Independent Online

Three primary school children, two boys and a girl, died in a suspected gas explosion in the Scottish capital today.

The youngsters were killed in a blast at a block of flats in Edinburgh's Slateford Road which occurred just before 3pm.

A woman who was injured in the incident is being treated at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

A Lothian and Borders Police statement said: "The investigation into the cause of this tragedy is in its early stages."

Several foreign students who have lived in the modern terrace block for about a year said they believed the injured woman lived in the property with her three children, and that they were newcomers to the building.

There were reports that a woman jumped from a third-floor balcony.

Fattah Hamami, 19, said: "I think she dropped herself from the third-floor balcony."

Omar Barifah, 20, said: "I came outside the building and she was covered up.

"I've been told by neighbours she jumped.

"I'm very sorry. It's a very sad thing to happen."

Moe Harbi, 22, said he smelt gas at about 1am today.

The chemical engineering student, from Saudi Arabia, said: "I thought it was from my flat though I checked the kitchen and the oven and then I slept.

"I didn't think it was from my neighbours."

Mr Harbi said he arrived back at his home shortly after the explosion occurred and was still waiting to get into the property.

Mr Hamami was sleeping when the explosion occurred.

He said: "There was a big bang and it shook me awake.

"Suddenly the police were there and the keeper opened the door for the police.

"I could smell gas before it happened. It was very strong."

Police said emergency services were called to the property following reports of a suspected gas explosion and fire.

The statement said: "A fire in the first floor of the three-storey modern townhouse was extinguished by Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service and the property made safe.

"Gas supply at the scene was isolated as a precaution.

"Police can confirm three primary school children - two boys and a girl - have died in the incident.

"In addition, an adult woman was taken by ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary."

Scotland Gas Networks sent engineers to the scene but said the explosion did not involve its network.

A spokesman said: "However, our engineers will remain in the area to provide expert advice to the emergency services if required."

City councillor Gordon Buchan, who represents the Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart ward, said Edinburgh City Council would visit the building when it had been made safe and provide assistance to anyone affected by the blast.

Chief Inspector Kevin Greig of Lothian and Borders Police, speaking at the scene, said: "Police were called as a result of a call by a member of the public saying there had been a gas explosion.

"We can also confirm that Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue extinguished a fire on the first floor.

"The investigation is in its very early stages. I can't add any more at this time, other than to extend my sympathies to those affected."

Hayley Cormack, 20, an ecological science student who lives in the same block of three-storey town houses, said: "It's a bit worrying as it's something to do with the building.

"I'm hoping there's going to be some kind of investigation. This should never have happened. These buildings are only two years old."