Seven hurt in City gas explosion

FIREMEN clearing debris outside the McDonald's fast food restaurant close to Liverpool Street Station in the City yesterday, after a gas explosion, in the basement of the seven-storey office block next door, in which seven people were injured.

Several passers-by and McDonald's customers were taken to St Bartholomew's Hospital in central London suffering from shock and minor injuries after the explosion, just before 9am in Greenly House, 40 Duke's Place, at the junction with Houndsditch. One man who was suffering from a broken ankle was admitted, while five other men and one woman were discharged after receiving treatment.

Bomb Squad officers combed the scene of the blast, which occurred in an area of the City where many buildings are still covered in scaffolding and protective sheeting while repairs to damage caused by the IRA's Bishopsgate bomb on 24 April are carried out. The Baltic Exchange, where another IRA bomb killed three people on 10 April 1992, is also near by.

Yesterday's explosion badly damaged the basement and ground floor of the empty office block, and a Ford Fiesta that was parked outside. Ambulances took the injured to hospital and fire crews doused a blazing gas main before the pipe was capped off. Broken glass and debris littered the scene.

Inspector Mark Langridge, of the City of London Police, confirmed that there had been 'a very big gas explosion' and that the gas main had caught fire. He added that 'there were reports of a smell of gas after and immediately before the explosion'.

A City of London police spokesman said later that it was not yet known whether the gas main had exploded or whether there had been a build-up of gas outside. British Gas officials were investigating the cause of the explosion.

(Photograph omitted)