Woman trapped in rubble after gas blast

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The Independent Online

An elderly woman was trapped for 90 minutes in blazing rubble after an explosion caused by vandals who snapped a gas pipe.

Firefighters worked to stop more debris falling on her and keep flames under control, while heavy lifting gear was brought in to free her.

The blast demolished three flats in a six-floor council block in Hulme, Manchester, causing severe structural damage. Fire swept through the top two floors.

A British Gas spokeswoman at the scene said investigators had found a snapped gas pipe in the unoccupied flat below that of the injured woman. It had been deliberately snapped and gas was escaping.

She said: "We have now put the investigation into the hands of the police."

Clive Heather, operational manager with Greater Manchester Ambulance Service, said the woman was conscious throughout and talked to her rescuers as she was lowered to the ground on a fire service hydraulic platform. She was thought to have burns and injuries to her lower legs and spine.

Residents said the woman, in her seventies, had lived in the flat for about 20 years. She had returned from nearby shops shortly before the blast.