Salford gas explosion: 'The house was just in the ground'

By Lucy Ewing
BBC News, Salford

image captionFour houses were destroyed and others were badly damaged

"It was a massive bang. It felt like a plane had hit the roof."

Sally Bennett, 32, lives four doors down from the house at the centre of the explosion in Merlin Road, Irlam. She was woken by the noise of the blast just before 0715 GMT.

"I got the kids and just ran out of the door," she said.

She dashed down the street to check on her mother and saw the devastation.

"It was just a mess," she said. "The house was just in the ground. There was white insulation everywhere. It looked like Christmas."

She watched as people tried to pull residents from the wreckage.

One man who went to the rescue of his neighbours was 30-year-old Vinny Jones, who lives five doors from the explosion.

The father of two spotted a woman clutching a baby in a bedroom of one of the damaged houses and rushed to help her.

"The back of her house had just blown off," he said. "She was trapped."

'Everyone was frantic'

He said two men were holding a ladder so he ran up it to reach the woman.

He took the baby from her and carried the child down the ladder before returning and carrying the woman to safety.

"It was just instinct and adrenaline," he said.

image captionVinny Jones helped rescue a baby from the scene of the explosion

Mr Jones said he saw an elderly woman sat outside the house next door looking dazed and then moved on to another property where people were also trapped.

"There was not a lot we could do. They were trapped under the roof, we could hear them."

The emergency crews arrived soon after and took the injured from the scene.

Mr Jones said the sound of his windows smashing during the blast had woken him up.

"Initially I thought someone had thrown a brick through my window," he said.

"My first thought was the kids. I rushed to them but they were fine.

"I could hear people screaming outside that people were trapped and houses were falling down and I ran outside.

"It was just rubble and people were screaming."

David Isherwood, 33, of Silver Street, also helped rescue those trapped.

"Everyone was frantic and in a panic," he said. "I haven't seen anything like it before and I hope I never see it again."

Smell of gas

Irene Danks, 66, of nearby Merlin Road, praised Mr Jones and Mr Isherwood and others who helped.

image captionA cordon around the scene spanned 600m

She said: "The men went in to help rescue the women and children. They are all heroes really."

Several hours later the cordon around the terraced houses, which overlook the M62, spanned 600m.

There were police officers dotted every few metres around the cordon tape.

Residents stood chatting, looking through the cordon to the fire engines, ambulances and police cars beyond.

Schoolchildren stood watching, trying to find out what was happening.

The smell of gas which was reported earlier has now gone but people still do not know when they will be able to get home. They are just grateful it wasn't their house.

Many residents, still wrapped in blankets, were taken to Fiddlers Lane Primary School and given refreshments.

People dressed in their pyjamas, dressing gowns and slippers sat at school dinner tables, warming themselves with a cup of tea.

They are now being transferred to a local leisure centre.

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