Rescuers refuse to give up hope at site of factory blast

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The Independent Online

An eigth body was recovered overnight from the rubble of a plastics factory in Glasgow destroyed by an explosion on Tuesday.

An eigth body was recovered overnight from the rubble of a plastics factory in Glasgow destroyed by an explosion on Tuesday.

Firefighters, assisted by specialist rescue teams, said they would continue digging for at least a week and are believed to be looking for at least one more person.

Police named the first seven dead, who include Stewart McColl, chief executive of Stockline Plastics. His daughter Sheena, who worked with him, was dug out of the rubble on Tuesday and was said to be "seriously ill" in hospital after one of her legs was amputated below the knee.

Timmy Smith, 31, from Johnstone in Renfrewshire was reported missing. His first child was christened last week.

Relatives of the dead and missing laid flowers at the scene. Four men, three women, a teenage girl and a small girl in a pushchair, sobbed as they paid their respects.

Police said the dead were Peter Ferguson, 52, of Kilbarchan; Ann Trench, 34, of Colston, Glasgow; Margaret Brownlie, 49, of Strathaven, Lanarkshire; Tracey McErlane, 27, of Possilpark; Annette Rosina Doyle, 24, of Glasgow; Thomas McAulay, 41, from Mount Florida, Glasgow; and James Stewart McColl, 60, from Halfway, West Kilbride. A total of 44 people were injured.

Ms Brownlie was a director of Stockline Plastics and is believed to have been one of those in the offices on the fourth floor when the explosion ripped through the building at noon.

Her mother, also Margaret, was informed of her daughter's death when police arrived at her home in Strathaven in the early hours of yesterday. Ms Brownlie's sister Morag told reporters the family were too upset to speak.

Ms McErlane's mother spent Tuesday waiting outside the factory for news, with her daughter's son who she had been minding. She and her husband, Arthur, were too upset to talk yesterday but a police family liaison officer who spent the day with them said they were "absolutely devastated by their loss".

Ms Trench had been due to finish work at the factory tomorrow.

Of the injured, some 20 patients remained in hospitals across Glasgow last night. Eleven were said to be in a serious condition.

Rescuers refused to give up hope as they switched their efforts from tunnelling into the mountain of rubble to drilling down through the top, removing the roof, in the search for survivors.

Strathclyde's Firemaster, Brian Sweeney, said evidence from earthquake zones had shown trapped victims could survive for up to a week. "Our operation will be continuing as long as five, six, seven days and I'll be here telling you it's a rescue operation," he said.

Apart from the sound of knocking coming from under the rubble at 5.30am yesterday there have been no signs of life.

Police have no official tally of how many people were inside the building. At least two men were thought to under the rubble and police were trying to ring their mobile phones but could not hear any response. Chief Superintendent David Christie said: "Irrespective of the number of employees that work in that building, at the time of the accident, people could have been out for their lunch, members of the public could have been shopping there, people could have been walking by, parking cars near by, so the exact figure has not been established as yet."

The cause of the blast is under investigation but Transco ruled out a gas main explosion.Some witnesses have suggested that a gas oven might have been to blame, raising fears about such factories operating close to residential areas.

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