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At least three people dead after ‘ferocious’ explosion at Jersey block of flats

At least three people have died in the wake of a “devastating” explosion at a three-storey tower block in Jersey.

Chief Minister Kristina Moore confirmed the latest total at a press conference following the explosion in the early hours of Saturday morning.

“Around a dozen” are feared missing after the “ferocious” blast at Haut du Mont on Pier Road in the Channel Island capital, St Helier.

Police described the scene as one of “utter devastation”, telling journalists how the tower block had “completely collapsed” and “doesn’t even look like a building” after the “very, very significant explosion”.

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At leaast three people have died and

The States of Jersey Police were called to the scene at 4am, with one person pronounced dead and two others, described as “walking wounded”, taken to hospital.

They have since been discharged with a third person receiving treatment for non-serious injuries, medics said.

A blaze ignited by the explosion was initially believed to have been extinguished, with emergency services “carrying out significant work” at the scene.

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However on Saturday afternoon police said “pockets of fire” have been discovered, adding that the site remains “highly unsafe”.

The South West Hazardous Area Response Team, together with an urban search and rescue team from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire & Rescue Service, have been deployed to assist.

The fire service was called to the area around 8.30pm on Friday night after residents reported smelling gas.

Emergency services were called to Haut du Mont on Pier Road around 4am on Saturday morning
Image:
Emergency services were called to Haut du Mont on Pier Road around 4am on Saturday morning

Cause of blast remains unknown

The cause of the explosion remains unknown, as emergency crews say their number one priority is to locate anyone who is alive in the rubble.

Robin Smith, chief officer at States of Jersey Police, said there are a “number of working hypotheses” but stressed it was important not to speculate.

A senior detective has been assigned to look into the incident, which could be a “criminal or joint investigation”, he said.

When asked about what could cause such a “ferocious” explosion, chief fire officer Paul Brown said there are “many different potential causes” but it is too early to speculate.

When pressed about whether the explosion happened near a mains gas supply, he replied: “We have been in dialogue with utility companies throughout the day.”

Emergency services coordinating their efforts at the scene in St Helier Pic: Facebook / Jersey Government
Image:
Emergency services coordinating their efforts at the scene in St Helier Pic: Facebook / Jersey Government
Emergency services were called to Haut du Mont on Pier Road around 4am on Saturday morning
Image:
Emergency services were called to Haut du Mont on Pier Road around 4am on Saturday morning

‘This isn’t going to finish today’

Mr Smith described the scene as one of “complete devastation”.

He said “significant progress” had been made thanks to a “coordinated effort” to deal with the tragedy, with the search for missing people set to continue throughout the night.

But he warned the incident was “protracted” and would likely go on for “days, maybe weeks”.

“It is important we have the resilience to continue and keep going,” he told the press conference, adding: “This isn’t going to finish today.”

Specially trained officers have been deployed to Jersey town hall to provide support to people affected by the incident, which will continue “way beyond” the search and rescue phase, Mr Smith said.

Emergency services coordinating their efforts at the scene in St Helier Pic: Facebook / Jersey Government
Image:
Emergency services coordinating their efforts at the scene in St Helier Pic: Facebook / Jersey Government

‘Unimaginable tragedy’

Ms Moore described the incident as an “unimaginable tragedy”.

She told the conference: “As we know at 4am this morning our island experienced an unimaginable tragedy taking the life of at least three islanders.

“The last 12 hours have demonstrated to me the resilience, skill and dedication of our emergency services and our community as a whole.”

Ms Moore said her thoughts were with the people whose loved ones had died, those waiting for news and anyone forced to leave their home.

She also offered her “sincere thanks” to emergency crews who have worked tirelessly through the night and hailed the “compassion” of islanders.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the incident and commended the work of the emergency services response, adding: “We stand ready to support in any way we can”.

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