Jersey flat explosion: Three dead and a dozen missing after building COLLAPSES

At least three people have died and “around a dozen” are missing after an explosion and fire caused a block of flats to collapse in Jersey.

The tragedy unfolded in St Helier at around 4am, less than nine hours after fire crews visited the area as residents had reported smelling gas.

A desperate search will continue through the night as specialists scour the scene for survivors.

People across the island were woken by the huge blast, which left debris strewn across the surrounding area as the building crumbled.

The island’s chief minister, Kristina Moore, this evening confirmed the death toll had risen to three, while the island’s fire service boss said that crews had attended the scene at 8.36pm last night.

Jersey police chief Robin Smith said that around 12 people are still unaccounted for, describing it as a scene of “complete devastation”.

He said that emergency services would continue to search the site through the night, with search and rescue specialists and search dogs assisting.

Two people, described by police as “walking wounded”, were taken to hospital and subsequently released. A further person is still being treated, but their injuries are not believed to be serious.

The police chief said the explosion and fire in St Helier is a “protracted” incident, and will go on for “days, maybe weeks”.

He said “in the region of around a dozen people” are missing, adding: “My hope, of course, is that the number is a lot less.”

He told a press conference: “This is a protracted incident and this is going to go on for days, maybe weeks, and therefore it is important to have resources to continue to keep going.”

Paul Brown, chief fire officer, said the search will continue all night, with specialists flown into Jersey to examine the scene of the explosion in St Helier.

He said that fire crews attended the scene last night, telling reporters: “I can confirm the fire and rescue service did attend at 20.36 yesterday evening… I know that they did conduct an investigation but at the moment what I’m focused on is the emergency response.”

Mr Brown said: “The plan is that we will continue searching and we have no other plan at this stage.”

Dramatic footage shows the moment the blast erupted as bright orange flames erupted from the complex before smoke billowed into the sky.

The cause has not yet been officially confirmed.

Island Energy tweeted it is working with Jersey Fire & Rescue Service to “understand exactly what happened”.

The Emergency Department at Jersey’s General Hospital is closed due to the explosion, and islanders are being discouraged from calling 999 “unless its an absolute emergency”.

Melody Wiseman, 27, who lives in a fifth floor flat across the harbour was woken by the noise and shaking of the fearsome explosion.

She said: “I was woken up by this massive, massive bang and the whole flat was just shaking, I was freaking out, I had no idea what was happening.

“I held onto the bed because the flat was shaking so much.

“There is a new block of flats being built next door and I was worried it was falling down, or it could have been an earthquake, it sounded that loud. I was too shaken up to go to the window and look out.

“If I had gone on the balcony I’d have seen a lot of flames, so I’m glad I didn’t as I can’t get the noise of it out of my head, I’m still freaked out by it.”

Her partner Callum Thorne, 31, added: “This morning I saw a line of about six ambulances, three fire trucks – I’ve never seen so many emergency service vehicles lined up like that, so when I saw that I knew something serious had happened.

“It’s awful to hear someone has died and there’s potentially others under the rubble.”

The police said in a statement: “Following the explosion this morning at Haut du Mont, Pier Road, a number of residents are still missing.

“Emergency services are working at the scene and have commenced a surface search of the site.

“Relatives are being contacted by Family Liaison Officers.”

The force said the fire has been extinguished, but emergency services are still “carrying out significant work” at the scene, which is cordoned off, and people have been asked to avoid the area.

An islander has described how he and his wife were pulled from their home by firefighters.

Luis and Luzia Gomes were taken to an evacuation point at the Town Hall, with Mr Gomes and other residents claiming firefighters were called out hours earlier due to a smell of gas.

Mr Gomes told the Jersey Evening Post: “The fire brigade were called last night at 9pm because it smelt of gas.

“We live on the road in front of where the explosion was. The whole house is destroyed, the windows and doors got blown off. We woke up to the explosion and we couldn’t move because there was too much smoke.

“The fire brigade had to pull us out, we were worried and scared.”

He added they saw six flats and three floors “completely destroyed”.

Chief minister of Jersey, Kristina Moore, said the flats were run by Andium Homes who were working to ensure anyone who has been displaced has somewhere to stay on Saturday night.

She also paid tribute to the emergency services for their ongoing work at the scene, which she said would take “some days” to clear.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, Ms Moore said: “Through these difficult times, I think it’s reassuring for everyone to see what amazing strength we have within our emergency services and, again, we just thank everybody who stepped up and came to the rescue and continue to work on the scene.

“This is going to take some days and we will keep everyone updated and fully informed and we will do our very best to ensure everybody is properly looked after.”

Asked how many people were still missing, Mr Smith added: “Given the destruction of the building it is hard to properly assess the numbers.

“We are looking in the region of around a dozen currently, but you will appreciate also that number could fluctuate.”

In a tweet, the fire service said: “As the search at Haut du Mont has progressed, pockets of fire have been discovered.

“The site remains highly unsafe.

“A South West hazardous area response team are on site and will be joined by an urban search and rescue team from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire & Rescue Service.”

Island Energy said: “We are working with @JsyFire to understand exactly what has happened and will share more information once it is available.

“We ask that islanders continue to follow the advice given by emergency services at this time.”