Pensioner escapes wrecked home

An elderly woman had a lucky escape yesterday after an explosion razed her house to the ground, burying her under the rubble.

Elsie Howland, 86, was pulled relatively unscathed from the wreckage by neighbours in Faversham, Kent, after the blast at about 8am, thought to have been caused by gas.

Ms Howland's house and one next door collapsed and two others were damaged after the explosion tore through the row of eight terraced houses.

Ms Howland was taken to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital suffering minor burns and injuries from smoke inhalation.

Nat Victor, 34, landlord of the Anchor pub nearby, said Ms Howland could be heard calling for help under a collapsed ceiling. He said the pensioner, who was in her dressing gown, appeared to have fallen from the top floor of her home.

"There was a big bang. It woke me up. There was a big cloud of smoke and I saw a pile of rubble. Someone heard a noise, so we shut up and all listened and we heard her cries. We climbed over the rubble and I lifted the roof while two other men pulled her out," he said.

Ms Howland's nephew, Michael Tomlinson, 57, said: "I'm very grateful to those people who pulled my aunt from the rubble. She had a miraculous escape."

A plaque commemorating the home of George Trench, who invented the blasting explosive Tonite, stands only yards from where the blast occurred.

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