Homes Evacuated After Gas Explosion

A man's been led to safety by Southsea firefighters after a large explosion in his house in the early hours of this morning (July 25 2012).

The man, believed to be in his 90s, was not seriously injured but the explosion destroyed 50 per cent of the rear of his terraced property on Welch Road. 

There was also significant structural damage to the front of the house. It is thought the explosion was caused by a gas cooker left on overnight.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service control operators mobilised two crews from Southsea at 3.55am following a report of a loud explosion in Welch Road. 

On arrival, the first crew found no fire but used one set of breathing apparatus to enter the building and help the elderly man to safety.

The crew isolated the gas supply and requested the attendance of the gas board. The property's structural integrity was also checked. With the help of Hampshire Constabulary, eight surrounding properties were then evacuated.

Affected residents were taken to the Salvation Army centre where they were looked after by members of the Safer Portsmouth Partnership. Volunteers from the Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS) team also attended to provide reassurance for the evacuated residents. 

The elderly male occupant of the affected property was taken to hospital by South Central Ambulance Service to be checked over. 

Engineers from the local authority were also called to assess the property and the neighbouring houses.

Station Manager Dave Smith said: "The man usually sleeps in the back of the house but was asleep in the front room of the on the ground floor of the property at the time of the explosion. Had he been in the back of the house it could have been a very different outcome. 

"The explosion caused not only caused major structural damage to the elderly man's house but also the dividing walls to the adjacent properties.

"Our crew was able to quickly assess the scene, help the man to safety and isolate the gas supply.

"We then worked with our partners to carry out a controlled evacuation plan in the area and reassure residents.

"This is a very stark reminder of the dangers gas can cause. People should always check any gas appliances or cylinders are fully turned off before they go to bed or leave their house. If you smell gas, contact the gas board and do not use naked flames or electrical items."

Chloe Boyce, a spokeswoman for Southern Gas Networks, said: "As Southern Gas Networks is responsible for the gas distribution network in this area, we were called to a property in Southsea early this morning following reports of an explosion. 

"We've carried out an investigation and can confirm the gas mains and services in the area are sound and have not contributed to what has happened. We can also confirm the explosion was caused by the gas cooker being left on. We've isolated the gas supply and done further checks which show there are no gas readings at all in the area. 

"This is a stark reminder to everyone to check gas appliances are fully turned off before they go to bed or leave their house. If anyone smells gas they should contact the National Gas Emergency Number on 0800 111 999. 

"Our thoughts are with the gentleman who has been injured today."