Three dead and up to a dozen still missing after explosion at Jersey St Helier flats


At least three people have died and up to dozen others are still missing after an explosion so strong it registered on earthquake monitors destroyed a block of flats in Jersey.

Emergency services were called to Haut du Mont flats in St Helier just before 4am amid reports of a major incident. Locals were woken by what sounded like an earthquake as their houses shook and windows shattered.

Many rushed from their homes to the street to see the blaze had lit up the night sky, the air thick with plumes of smoke billowing from the building – which had completely crumbled – and debris strewn across the street.

A search and rescue operation is still underway in an attempt to find people trapped in the rubble, but the scene is reportedly ‘very dangerous’ for first responders. Crews have vowed  to ‘not stop searching’ for survivors as night falls.

Jersey Police chief officer Robin Smith said: It is a scene of utter devastation. It has completely collapsed. It doesn’t even look like a building was.  The number one priority is working out if there’s anyone alive in that debris.’

Jersey Fire & Rescue said ‘pockets of fire’ are still being discovered in the wreckage more than 10 hours after the initial explosion. Two ‘walking wounded’ were rushed to hospital, but police are yet to issue an update on the estimated 12 people who remain unaccounted for.

Have you been affected by the explosion? Email brittany.chain@mailonline.com 

This CCTV grab shows the moment the explosion first went off in the early hours of Saturday morning

This CCTV grab shows the moment the explosion first went off in the early hours of Saturday morning

Debris was strewn across the street while smoke plumes billowed through the air, as two 'walking wounded' were rushed to hospital

Debris was strewn across the street while smoke plumes billowed through the air, as two ‘walking wounded’ were rushed to hospital

Jersey Consumer Council Chairman Carl Walker said the blast was so powerful it was picked up on the British Geological Survey’s earthquake monitors.

Mr Smith earlier said: ‘Following the explosion this morning at Haut du Mont, Pier Road, a number of residents are still missing.’

He noted the search and rescue operation will likely take ‘a number of days’, and said the three-storey building had completely collapsed.

‘From a demolition point of view, it’s like a pancake that has dropped almost straight down… It is considerable destruction… It is a devastating scene, I regret to say.

While he urged the public to avoid speculation, he said: ‘There needs to be a recognition that we could have more fatalities.’

When asked how many people were thought to be missing, he said: ‘Given the destruction of the building it is hard to properly assess the numbers.

The building went up in flames shortly before 4am, causing the entire block of flats to crumble

The building went up in flames shortly before 4am, causing the entire block of flats to crumble

Pictured: Emergency services at the scene of the explosion on Pier Road in St Helier, Jersey, on Saturday morning as the search and rescue operation gets underway

Pictured: Emergency services at the scene of the explosion on Pier Road in St Helier, Jersey, on Saturday morning as the search and rescue operation gets underway

‘We are looking in the region of around a dozen, currently. That number could fluctuate, but that’s the number we’re operating to.’

A fire caused by the explosion has now been extinguished, but emergency services are still ‘carrying out significant work’ at the scene, which is cordoned off. People have been asked to avoid the area.

Locals have also been urged to avoid the hospital’s emergency department unless absolutely necessary to ensure the resources can be adequately used to treat victims.

It has not yet been established what caused the explosion, but Jersey’s gas supplier, Island Energy, has issued a statement, reading: ‘We are working with @JsyFire to understand exactly what has happened.

‘[We] will share more information once it is available. We ask that islanders continue to follow the advice given by emergency services at this time.’

It was also revealed residents in the block called fire services last night to report an issue with the flats.

Mr Smith confirmed on Saturday morning the fire brigade had attended the scene earlier in the evening. He said police would investigate ‘whether or not there was a safety issue’ regarding gas supplies.

Jersey Fire & Rescue said 'pockets of fire' are still being discovered in the wreckage more than 10 hours after the initial explosion. Two 'walking wounded' were rushed to hospital, but police are yet to issue an update on the estimated 12 people who remain unaccounted for

Jersey Fire & Rescue said ‘pockets of fire’ are still being discovered in the wreckage more than 10 hours after the initial explosion. Two ‘walking wounded’ were rushed to hospital, but police are yet to issue an update on the estimated 12 people who remain unaccounted for

A search and rescue operation is now underway in an attempt to find people trapped in the rubble, but the scene is reportedly 'very dangerous' for first responders

A search and rescue operation is now underway in an attempt to find people trapped in the rubble, but the scene is reportedly ‘very dangerous’ for first responders

The fire has now been extinguished, but emergency services are still 'carrying out significant work' at the scene, which is cordoned off

The fire has now been extinguished, but emergency services are still ‘carrying out significant work’ at the scene, which is cordoned off

The explosion shattered windows in the immediate vicinity of the tragedy

The explosion shattered windows in the immediate vicinity of the tragedy

Anthony Abbott, who lives in the Haut du Mont complex, told ITV he and his family felt ‘lucky’  to have survived the explosion.

‘There was debris everywhere. Our windows had all come in. We got a few clothes on, got out of the building, helped people down the stairs and we were all escorted  away from the scene.

‘We’re lucky. There may be some people who may not be. There are people that we knew… I haven’t seen them as yet.’ 

The blip on the green line at about 4am shows the moment the explosion registered on local earthquake data

The blip on the green line at about 4am shows the moment the explosion registered on local earthquake data

Byron Hatton, 50, was at home with his wife at the time of the blast shortly before 4am – and was woken by the loud noise.

He described springing out of bed as the ‘house shook’ and he first wondered if a ‘mini earthquake’ had occurred.

Mr Hatton questioned whether ‘a car had crashed into the house’ at their home just outside Bingham Court, Saint Helier, before seeing plumes of smoke.

The IT manager said: ‘The first bang was absolutely massive, it shook the house. Then there were two smaller explosions.

‘It woke everyone in the area up – I could see all the lights coming on through the windows of people’s homes trying to work out what had happened. All anyone could see from our area was smoke – huge plumes of smoke and ash.’

After checking his family were okay, he donned his coat and went out onto the road to see what had happened before being stopped by a police officer.

He added: ‘We were all out in woolly hats, pyjamas and jackets, maybe 10 or 15 of us. Pier Road was absolute carnage, there was ash and debris everywhere but we couldn’t get any closer.’

‘Being realistic, it would be an absolute miracle if people survived. I feel so sorry for people that may have lost their lives.’ 

Mr Hatton said he spent around 45 minutes at the top of his road with a police officer, who ‘was pretty shaken up’ as he continued his night shift.

He said: ‘We need to respect our emergency services right now, they must be going through Hell to see the things they are seeing.’

Janice Byrne, who lives across the street from the flats, said she was ‘nearly thrown out of bed at 3.39am’ after the explosion.

‘I was in shock as I heard a massive bang and the building shook. I was able to look out on my balcony to see some houses in the distance on fire.’ 

Daniel Hunt, a 19-year-old data administrator, said the explosion also woke him at around 4am.

‘My bedroom was shaken from the explosion with the windows rattling, which was all very unnerving,’ he said.

‘I went outside to take a look… I could see what looked like police and firefighters shining torches through windows of surrounding buildings.

‘I assume as they were evacuating the surrounding area. The building (was) up in flames with smoke pouring out of the windows. To have this happen so close and so early in the morning you don’t know what to think.’

This is the moment the explosion went off

This is the moment the explosion went off

Jersey's gas supplier, Island Energy, has issued a statement, reading: 'We are working with @JsyFire to understand exactly what has happened'

Jersey’s gas supplier, Island Energy, has issued a statement, reading: ‘We are working with @JsyFire to understand exactly what has happened’

Three people have died and up to 12 people are missing after an explosion destroyed several flats in Jersey

Three people have died and up to 12 people are missing after an explosion destroyed several flats in Jersey

Another said: ‘I’ve never heard an explosion like it… there was glass all over the road… It’s done a lot of damage where we live, all the neighbours have been out since 4am cleaning glass.

‘It’s a really bad thing to happen toward Christmas for everybody. My prayers go out to everybody.’  

The flats were owned by public housing company Andium Homes, which is owned by the Jersey government. 

Now, the remainder of the residents are being cared for at St Helier Town Hall, where they’re being provided bedding, clothing and anything else they may need.

Jersey’s chief minister Kristina Moore said the area would be under investigation for ‘some days’ as she expressed condolences to families affected.

Speaking alongside Mr Smith at the conference, she said: ‘It’s a huge shock to everyone this morning, but in the first instance our condolences go to the families who are affected and we’re all thinking and praying for those who are worried about their loved ones.

‘We all share in their concern.’ Ms Moore said she would keep islanders updated as investigations continue.

UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab issued a statement to say he is ‘deeply saddened’ by the tragedy.

Jersey Police has set up a support line where concerned residents can request information about family members affected by the major incident. 

The public are urged to call 0800 735 5566 (Freeline) or 01534 445566, rather than police.

The fire has now been extinguished, but emergency services are still 'carrying out significant work' at the scene, which is cordoned off

The fire has now been extinguished, but emergency services are still ‘carrying out significant work’ at the scene, which is cordoned off

Robin Smith

Kristina Moore

Robin Smith (left), chief officer at States of Jersey Police and Chief minister of Jersey, Kristina Moore (right) held an emergency press conference to discuss the tragedy on Saturday morning





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