Update: Bulldozers move in on explosion site

THE crumbled remains of a converted house at the centre of a gas explosion in Clacton have been demolished.

Bulldozers have pulled down the remains of the property in Wellesley Road this afternoon to prevent a further collapse.

During the demolition, a 21 tonne JCB truck ripped through the walls and floors of three flats.

Among the ruins was a hamster, still alive and well. The digger carefully extracted its cage and lowered it to the ground where firefighters inspected the contents and saw a brown and white creature scurrying around.

It has now been taken to the vets.

Earlier this morning a gas explosion ripped through the building, leaving two people trapped.

Firefighters from across Essex were called to the scene and the East of England Ambulance Service were alerted shortly before 2am. Three ambulances, a senior ambulance officer, a doctor and the trusts hazardous area response team attended.

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A woman was quickly rescued and newly-qualified search and rescue dog Kirby was sent in alongside veteran Darcy to help locate a missing man, found trapped beneath the rubble.

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) technician and dog handler Graham Currie said: “Kirby only qualified as a search and rescue dog last Thursday and it is incredible to think that those skills have already potentially saved a life.

“It took him less than a minute to locate the man in the rubble and we were able to speak to him to confirm his location.

“We then got a specialist camera into the rubble to visually confirm where the man was and ascertain the condition he was in and his position in the rubble.

“Then it was a matter of removing the rubble to rescue him. The man was conscious when we rescued him.”

But a woman who lived in the bottom floor flat, believed to be in her 70s has suffered severe burning and is being treated in hospital.

Speaking from the scene this morning, Assistant Divisional Officer for the fire service Martyn Hare said: “We believe there has been a gas explosion which has caused substantial collapse in a house which has been converted into flats.”

Assistant Divisional Officer Neil Holloway added: “This has been a complicated and difficult job but firefighters and the USAR team have done an excellent job.

“When crews arrived they were faced with a house which had almost totally collapsed. Four people had been led to safety and a woman was quickly rescued from the rear of the building.

“The USAR team quickly located a man trapped in the rubble and were able to safely rescue him.

“It is extremely lucky that no one has died here and it is testament to the skill of firefighters and the USAR team that everyone has been rescued alive.”

Fire continued to blaze under the rubble and crews spent most of the morning extinguishing the flames.

Sixty people had leave their homes when the properties were evacuated for safety reasons.