Seven injured as explosion leaves gaping hole in row of houses

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Seven people have been injured after a huge explosion left a gaping hole in a row of houses in Kent.

Several people were believed to have been trapped following the blast in Willesborough, Ashford, and had to be freed by emergency services.

Two people were taken to hospital in London with serious injuries, South East Coast Ambulance Service said, while five others were taken to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford with injuries thought to be less serious.

Officers worked to establish if anyone was missing while local residents were evacuated from the scene in Mill View.

All residents were subsequently accounted for and the explosion is not being treated as suspicious at this stage, police said.

Local resident and journalism student Chantal Weller described the “hectic” aftermath of the explosion with people panicking, but said things have since calmed down as the fire was brought under control.

She told the PA news agency she felt her house shake at 8am, “like something had literally flown into the side of it”.

The 20-year-old added: “It didn’t make a lot of noise, but there was a big shudder.

“I looked out the window and saw a lot of people looking down the road and looking worried.

Paramedics and emergency services attend to an injured person at the scene
Paramedics and emergency services attend to an injured person at the scene (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Firefighters from seven fire engines have been tackling the blaze and working to extinguish the last remaining signs of fire.

Fire officer Paul Ramsden told reporters at the scene that the road would have to be dug up in order to properly isolate the gas and electricity.

Asked about the people who had been evacuated from nearby homes, he added: “What we’re looking to do at the moment is obviously isolate the gas and electricity and then start to bring that cordon back in, into a close proximity when we know it’s safe to do so.

“Then we can start a phased approach of allowing people to come back into the property.”

Members of the public have been urged to avoid the area and residents have been asked to keep their windows closed.

Firefighters were called to Mill View at 7.57am on Tuesday.

A spokesman from the South East Coast Ambulance Service said: “Two patients have been taken to hospital in London with serious injuries.

Willesborough incident
The scene in Willesborough, near Ashford, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“We remain at the scene in support of our emergency service colleagues.”

A spokesman for Kent Police said earlier on Tuesday: “A number of people were reported to have been trapped and they were freed by emergency services.”

The Salvation Army has set up a centre at a local village hall to provide support to those who have been evacuated.

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “Our thoughts are with all those involved by this tragic incident this morning.

“Our officers are working with emergency services on the scene and are providing support to the local community including looking at alternative accommodation for those who need it and working with the emergency services to ensure the safe return to properties.”

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