Two Injured in Barnstaple Explosion

Two men had a miracle escape on Monday after a gas explosion completely destroyed a terraced house. The blast tore out the first floor of the two-bedroom flat and left the occupants needing treatment for severe burns.

Gas cylinders are thought to have caused the blast, which ripped through the property and scattered debris up to 300 metres away.

Dozens of residents were evacuated from their homes amid fears structural damage may cause neighbouring properties to collapse.

The two men were taken to North Devon District Hospital and later flown to a specialist burns unit. Fire fighters battled the 40ft flames after receiving over 20 calls in a matter of seconds from terrified neighbours, who reported the men's ''harrowing'' screams of pain.

Jason Severn, 39, who lives nearby, said: ''I heard a huge bang and then heard screams.

''I opened my bedroom window and I heard someone crying 'Help Me, help me.' The screams were absolutely harrowing. From our windows, you could see the flames. They were huge.''

Martin Hill, 17, said: ''First of all I thought a car had crashed. There was a huge great rumble for about half a second.

''I got up to see what was going on but before I could turn the light on, there was an explosion and screaming and all the windows smashed.

''The screams were eerie as hell. My initial reaction was to get every one out of the house.

''I came out to the back garden and you could see the flames over the top. The windows on our first floor have all smashed and half of the roof came into our garden.

''We had a four-year-old in the house and a 4 x 4 rafter came through the roof and it was just shooting out over the kid's bed. We spoke to one lady who had come out of her house and her eyes were welling up.

''She said the loud random explosion reminded her of being in the war and was bringing back awful memories.''

Josh Wise, 17, said: ''The police came and knocked all down our road and told us all to get out of our houses.

''We grabbed the kid and came out saw about 20 people in the street, and about 30 or 40 ft flames coming over the top.''

Geoff Morton said: ''I woke up to the biggest bang you could imagine. It was a huge shock and very frightening.''

Dave Brown said: ''The explosion alone ripped apart the house like it was made of playing cards.''

Rhys Evans, of Devon firse service, said: ''The building was completely destroyed by the explosion and there's been significant structural damage to some of the neighbouring properties.''

Insp Anne Higgins, of Devon and Corwnwall police, said: ''There was a large explosion in Trinity Street between 4.30am and 5am. The blast was felt by a lot of residents from a fair distance away.

''Police and fire crews were called to the scene and found a residential building well alight.

''There was a large amount of debris strewn all over the street and several neighbouring properties suffered smashed windows and damage to their cars. Fire crews worked hard to extinguish the blaze which may have involved gas.''

Paul Bourton, Emergency Planning Officer at North Devon Council, said: ''It seems it is gas cylinders which have caused this.

"We have got the housing department making sure everyone is OK and Barum Court are being great, providing everyone with tea and shelter.

''Building control is also making sure the building is safe. Everyone is back in their homes, apart from Litchdon Street. We have to keep an eye on it until the smouldering stops, which could take some time.''

Police have cordoned off the site and are investigating the source of the blast.