Salford gas blast site 'an eyesore one year on'

The scene of the gas blast, one year on
Image caption Residents have said the derelict site has become an "embarrassment"

On 2 November last year, residents in the Irlam area of Salford woke to the noise of an explosion.

Three homes were destroyed in the suspected gas blast, several others had to be pulled down and about 200 nearby suffered damage.

Fifteen people were injured, including pensioner Marie Burns, who suffered 30% burns.

And one year on, residents on the quiet estate say they are still waiting for the destroyed and damaged homes to be rebuilt and repaired and for a return to normality.

BBC News went back to the estate on Friday. The row of houses - with a gaping hole where five houses once stood - is behind hoardings decorated with artwork by local school children.

'Attracts trouble'

Several windows in the houses behind are still open, with children's curtains blowing in the wind.

The peace and quiet of the estate, made up of terraced houses and bungalows with neat gardens, is interrupted occasionally with the arrival of a truck removing a skip from the site.

Mrs Burns now lives in a bungalow in the shadow of the blast site.

Residents from some of the other damaged houses are waiting to return.

Vinny Jones, who helped rescue people from the wreckage, said the site was "an eyesore" and an "embarrassment" for residents.

"It's brought the neighbourhood down," he said. "The site seems to attract trouble."

"I've had to chase kids out of the site and there's been fires in the houses which were left standing."

Mr Jones, who is seeking compensation over the blast, said the street lights around the site were still switched off.

"It is pitch black, you can't see anything - it's not safe. Pensioners live in bungalows nearby, they are so worried because it is so dark. My kids won't go out either.

"We just don't know when it is all going to be sorted out."

'Changed neighbourhood'

Terrence Kelly, 72, has lived on the estate with his wife Sandra, also 72, for 43 years and has seen many families come and go.

But he said the gas blast had "changed the neighbourhood" because residents had to be re-homed in the wake of the blast and many had not returned.

Mr Kelly, whose house overlooks the back of the terraces which were blown up, said he was re-housed for six months.

"I was glad to come back but the time it took they could have built new houses. I hope they sort it out soon."

Image caption The blast ripped through one house and pulled down two others

But Mr Jones, who had to live with his father-in-law for six months in the wake of the blast, said the community had pulled together.

"We all really look out for each other," he said. "We always shouted hello but now we really know each other. It's how it should be."

Tim Doyle, chief executive of City West Housing Trust - which owns the house at the centre of the blast - said the welfare of customers had been "at the forefront of our activities" since the day of the explosion a year ago.

He said the housing association had provided "extensive support and assistance to the people who were affected by the explosion".

Bramall Construction started work on the site on Monday, he added. Work is expected to finish by summer 2012.

"We are looking forward to seeing these homes complete and people settled back in. We will continue to provide a high level of customer support throughout this process," he said.

"We remain grateful to all of those people who have been involved in supporting those affected at the time and we will continue to provide as much help as possible to ensure that people can return home and back to normality."

The Health and Safety Executive is continuing to investigate the blast.

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