Didcot Power Station collapse: Major search for missing

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Media captionSearch teams are working through enormous piles of rubble at the site

A major search operation is under way to find three people missing after a building at Didcot Power Station collapsed and left one person dead.

Rescuers using sniffer dogs have been at the Didcot A Power Station site since a major incident was declared.

A rubble pile up to 30ft in height is being searched by specialist teams.

Thames Valley Fire Control Service said the collapse was a "very severe incident", which left five other people needing hospital treatment.

Live updates on the Didcot collapse

Four are in stable and non-life threatening condition, while one man is in a serious but not life-threatening condition at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, a spokesman for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said.

During Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron sent his "sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victim and best wishes to the injured and those still missing".

Ministerial meetings on the matter had already taken place with further meetings taking place later, he added.

Safety concerns

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, the Conservative MP for Didcot, said the man who died and the three people who are still missing are based in the North.

He said he was "hoping and praying" for the missing men and their families.

"I don't think anything will prepare me for seeing the site itself," he added.

Coleman and Company, the Birmingham-based firm behind the demolition, tweeted it was "working with all stakeholders to establish facts" and urged concerned relatives of employees to get in touch.

Emergency crews said two drone aircraft with thermal imaging cameras were being used in the search at the site, where a 100m cordon is in place.

Fire officers said no signs of life had yet been found.

Assistant chief fire officer Simon Furlong said: "We've had no significant signs [of life], but that doesn't mean to say there isn't saveable lives still within the building."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Emergency teams have spent the night searching for three people, missing after part of the power station collapsed

The former coal-fired power station was turned off in 2013, after 43 years in service, and demolition work had been taking place.

The neighbouring gas-fired Didcot B power station which opened in 1997 continues to operate.

Speaking from the scene, Mr Furlong said the operation was being hampered because of safety concerns.

He said: "This is a very difficult situation with a very unstable structure.

At the scene: BBC News reporter Ben Moore

After a long night rescue teams are weary, but still the search continues.

Crews here are using more high tech devices, a drone with sensitive listening equipment is scanning the debris to try and pick up any trace of the three missing people, who all here hope are still alive.

The task ahead though, is considerable. A full half of the 984ft long turbine hall has collapsed, and in its place there's a 30ft high pile of debris, including an estimated 12,000 ton of twisted metal.

All here are keen to stress this is not a recovery, but a rescue mission.

"The safety of emergency service personnel has to remain our priority, while recognising how hard this must be for families waiting for news of loved ones.

"Our sympathies are with them, and the family of the person who died here."

The service said experts from Cheshire who were involved in a search at a wood flour mill following a fire were being brought on to the site to advise on the search.

Rescue teams from Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, the West Midlands and Merseyside are also involved.

A joint statement by the emergency services said the building, which is 300m long and 10-storeys high, was due to be demolished in the coming weeks.

Image caption Aerial footage of the collapse shows the devastation
Image copyright Nigel Brady
Image caption The scale of the collapse was captured by former power station employee Nigel Brady, who took these before and after images

An Npower spokeswoman said the building had collapsed "while an external demolition contractor was working in it."

"Our thoughts are with the families of all those involved in this tragedy," he said.

Initial reports suggested an explosion took place at 16:00 GMT on Tuesday but the company confirmed a partial collapse had led to the whole building coming down.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation has also been launched.

The fire service said dust from the collapse covered a "considerable area" but there were no hazardous materials in the building.

Fifty people were treated at the scene for dust inhalation.

Residents were urged to remain inside and keep doors and windows closed.

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Media captionBlaine Morris-Smith: "I heard a massive explosion behind me... it looked like a controlled explosion"

Adrian Redhead, who lives about a quarter of a mile away, said he had just got home from work on Tuesday afternoon when he heard a "massive noise".

He said: "It sounded like a train had come off the rails. Sirens were all over the place. I looked outside and saw all the dust. There were loads of emergency vehicles. A load of dust came over the house."

Image caption The concrete and steel building at the derelict Didcot A site came down while it was being prepared for demolition

About Didcot A Power Station

Image copyright PA
Image caption Three of Didcot A Power Station's cooling towers pictured in 2007

Oxfordshire's coal-fired Didcot A Power Station was turned off in 2013, after 43 years in service.

The station included six cooling towers, measuring 375ft (114m) in height, which dominated the skyline of the town.

Hundreds of people gathered to watch when three of the towers were demolished in the early hours of 27 July 2014.

RWE Npower expects complete deconstruction of the site by the end of this year.

A gas-burning power station - known as Didcot B - opened in 1997 on the site and continues to operate.

A major fire was declared at Didcot B in October 2014, with 20 fire crews sent to tackle the blaze, which was caused by an electrical fault.

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