England

David Cameron pledges support for Salford blast victims

The destroyed homes in Irlam
Image caption The blast destroyed three terraced homes and damaged many others

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged government support to hundreds of people uprooted by the suspected gas explosion in Salford.

Three homes were flattened and 200 properties were affected by the blast in Irlam on Tuesday.

Part of the cordon will be lifted on Thursday morning, which means people face a second night away from home.

Speaking in the Commons earlier, Mr Cameron said ordinary people had "done extraordinary things" after the blast.

Marie Burns, 82, is being treated in hospital for 30% burns and remains in a critical but stable condition. Fourteen others suffered minor injuries.

Phased return

Residents stayed in hotels overnight as a safety cordon remained in place around the Merlin Road and adjacent Silver Street area.

City West Housing said the Silver Street cordon was expected to be lifted at 0830 GMT on Thursday, which would allow a "phased return" of residents.

"We appreciate people will want to return as soon as possible but for everybody's safety and security they will need to adhere to the time slots given," said a spokeswoman.

Neighbours crawled over rubble in Merlin Road to reach those trapped by the blast before fire crews arrived.

Earlier in the Commons, Salford Labour MP Hazel Blears warned the "horrific explosion" would cost an "enormous" sum at a time when council funding was being cut.

Describing it as a "dreadful accident" the prime minister said all agencies, including City West Housing trust, which owns many of the properties on the estate, were working closely to help residents return to their homes.

Through the Bellwin scheme - an initiative which allows emergency financial assistance to local authorities - he pledged to "respond as we can to Salford's needs".

People in 30 of the homes in the immediate blast site will have to move into temporary accommodation for the "medium term", City West Housing said.

Ten of those homes will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt, it said.

The cause of the blast has been traced to the middle of the terraced homes, where a new kitchen and bathroom was being fitted on behalf of the housing association.

Mr Doyle said contractors, who all had appropriate certification, had disconnected and reconnected the gas several times during the work.

Five of the 14 victims with minor injuries were children. Three adults were kept overnight in Salford Royal Hospital as a precaution.

Mrs Burns, the 82-year-old victim, is being treated at Wythenshawe Hospital, which has a specialist burns unit.

Displaced residents were taken to Monton House Hotel in Monton, Etap hotel at Salford Quays and Paddington House Hotel in Warrington.

Vinny Jones, of Merlin Road, stayed at Paddington House with his family but said they struggled to rest.

"We just got bits of sleep. I was running things through in my head," he said.

Deb Bailey, of Neville Grove, spent the night in the Monton House Hotel and said she help thinking about the the explosion.

"I'm worried about my cat. I know it's just a cat but he's been on his own since it happened," she said.

A joint investigation between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Greater Manchester Police and the fire service is under way.

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokesman told the BBC that investigations at the site would take several days.

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