Seven people have been injured, two of them seriously, after an explosion left a gaping hole in a row of houses in Kent, emergency services have said.
Witnesses described feeling their homes shudder on Tuesday morning as the blast destroyed much of a house in Willesborough, near Ashford, leaving the chimney breast towering into the air.
Several people were believed to have been trapped and had to be freed by emergency services. Two were taken to hospital in London with serious injuries, South East Coast ambulance service said, while five others were taken to William Harvey hospital in Ashford with injuries thought to be less serious.
Chantal Weller, a journalism student who lives nearby, told reporters of the “hectic” aftermath of the explosion, with people panicking. She said she felt her house shake at 8am on Tuesday “like something had literally flown into the side of it”.
The 20-year-old added: “It didn’t make a lot of noise, but there was a big shudder. I looked out the window and saw a lot of people looking down the road and looking worried.
“I walked out on to the street and could see lots of police cars whizzing past down Osborne Road to get to the house. There were people everywhere because of the school run.”
Police officers worked to establish if anyone was missing while local residents were evacuated from the scene. All residents were subsequently accounted for and the explosion was not being treated as suspicious, police said.
Firefighters said they were called out at 7.57am and seven fire engines were used to extinguish the remaining signs of fire. Members of the public have been urged to avoid the area and residents have been asked to keep their windows closed.
An ambulance service spokesman said: “Two patients have been taken to hospital in London with serious injuries. A further five patients have been taken to William Harvey hospital in Ashford with injuries thought to be less serious. We remain at the scene in support of our emergency service colleagues.”
A spokesman for Kent police said: “A number of people were reported to have been trapped and they were freed by emergency services.”
The Salvation Army has set up a centre at a local village hall to provide support to those who have been evacuated.