Salford gas blast residents returning home

image captionThe blast destroyed three terraced homes and damaged many others

Some of the residents evacuated from their homes after a suspected gas explosion in Salford have begun returning home.

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

Fifteen people were injured, including 73-year-old Marie Burns who suffered 30% burns.

Residents started returning from 0900 GMT, after the safety cordon was reduced, City West Housing said.

The local housing trust has categorised homes into four zones, depending on the level of damage.

About 160 homes have been deemed safe and some residents in that category have returned the their houses.

It is expected 78 households will return on Thursday, City West Housing said.

A further 72 are due to return when the cordon is relaxed further.

'Extremely difficult ordeal'

Tim Doyle, chief executive of City West Housing, said: "We are pleased that we are able to begin to return the first residents to their properties.

"They have been through an extremely difficult ordeal and we are working very closely with them to help with their return home.

"Due to the large number of people we are helping to move back today this is going to take some time.

image captionThe fire service, police and Health and Safety Executive are investigating

"We appreciate people will want to return to their homes as quickly as possible, but we ask residents for their patience in an understandable difficult time."

Other residents will have to be given temporary accommodation for up to two weeks, while work is being carried out to repair their homes.

And people living in about 10 houses will have to be re-housed, City West Housing said.

The source of the blast early on Tuesday 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.

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

Five of the 14 victims with minor injuries were children. Mrs Burns is being treated at Wythenshawe Hospital.

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 investigations at the site would take several days.

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