January 27, 2023

PABest The scene of an explosion and fire in a block of flats in St. Helier, Jersey.  At least three people were killed and a dozen are missing after the blast.  Photo date: Sunday, December 11, 2022. PA photo.  See PA story POLICE Jersey.  Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

The scene of an explosion and fire at a block of flats in St Helier, Jersey (Photo: PA)

Five people have now been confirmed dead after a massive explosion that destroyed an apartment building in Jersey after rescuers said they expect to find more bodies.

Jersey Police Chief Robin Smith warned it would likely take specialist teams “weeks” to complete their “careful and painstaking” search through the rubble.

Police estimated four more people are likely to be recovered from the wreckage of the three-storey Haut du Mont residential block, which was destroyed by the blast at 4am on Saturday.

Mr Smith said: ‘The number of confirmed islanders killed in the blast is now five.

‘There are still a number of residents, we assume four, who remain missing.

“Their families were notified of this announcement before other islanders. They are still supported by special officers.’

He told a press conference earlier on Sunday that the search had moved into a “recovery phase,” which is likely to last “weeks.”

epa10360979 Handout image provided by the Government of Jersey taken on 10 December 2022 of emergency workers at the scene of an explosion and fire at a block of flats in St Helier, Jersey, UK.  At least three people were killed and 12 are missing after the blast.  EPA/GOVERNMENT OF JERSEY HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT HANDOUT FOR EDITING ONLY/NO SALE

Emergency services on the scene (Photo: EPA)

epa10360984 Handout image supplied by the Government of Jersey taken on 10 December 2022 of emergency workers at the scene of an explosion and fire at a block of flats in St Helier, Jersey, UK.  At least three people were killed and 12 are missing after the blast.  EPA/GOVERNMENT OF JERSEY HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT HANDOUT FOR EDITING ONLY/NO SALE

At least five people have died (Photo: EPA)

epa10360988 Handout image provided by the Government of Jersey taken on 10 December 2022 of emergency workers at the scene of an explosion and fire at a block of flats in St Helier, Jersey, UK.  At least three people were killed and 12 are missing after the blast.  EPA/GOVERNMENT OF JERSEY HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT HANDOUT FOR EDITING ONLY/NO SALE

The rescue mission has been moved to a recovery mission (Photo: EPA)

ST HELIER, JERSEY - DECEMBER 11: Rescuers at the scene of an explosion that destroyed a block of flats in St Helier, Jersey on December 11, 2022.  At noon on 11 December, three bodies were found at the scene of the explosion on Pier Road and specialist teams continue to search for six more.  (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The blast destroyed an apartment building (Picture: Getty)

Mr Smith added that it is ‘probable’ the blast was a gas explosion, but this has not been confirmed.

Prime Minister Kristina Moore told reporters that the wider Jersey community is “extremely shocked and saddened” by the incident and that the government is “overwhelmed” by their “offer of support”.

Jersey fire chief Paul Brown acknowledged that something had gone “horribly wrong” and that his service will cooperate “fully” and “transparently” with the investigation into the cause of the blast.

Mr Brown previously confirmed that firefighters had been called to the building at 8.36pm on Friday and were investigating after residents reported smelling gas – just hours before the blast.

Specialist teams from other parts of the UK, including the Isle of Wight and Hampshire, have been called in to support the response.

Andium Homes, a state-owned but independent company that rents out thousands of properties on the island, said it is focusing on supporting residents on the estate.

Gas supplier Island Energy said it is working with the fire department to “understand exactly what happened.”


What we know so far about the fatal explosion

Here’s what we know about the explosion in St Helier, Jersey’s capital, that led to the deaths of at least five people.

– St Helier

The South Coast Region is one of Jersey’s 12 parishes, is home to approximately 36,000 people and accounts for a third of the island’s total population.

Most Jersey government offices are located in St Helier.

– The explosion

The blast occurred around 4 a.m. Saturday in the three-storey Haut Du Mont residential block owned by Andium Homes.

Jersey Police Chief Robin Smith said it is ‘probable’ the blast was a gas explosion, but they ‘don’t know at the moment’.

– The answer

Jersey’s emergency services were assisted by specialist teams from the UK, including Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Dozens of rescuers attempted to locate people as part of a search and recovery operation.

Cranes are deployed to search the wreckage and sniffer dogs search the rubble.

On Sunday, police said the rescue mission had become a “salvage operation,” in which an estimated four other residents were killed.

– The victims

The five dead have yet to be named by police, but their families have been notified.

– The reaction

Prime Minister Kristina Moore described the incident as a “huge shock” and an “unimaginable tragedy” for the Channel Island.

Justice Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab tweeted: “I am deeply saddened by the incident in Jersey this morning and my thoughts are with everyone involved.

“I commend the work of the emergency services responding and we stand ready to support in any way we can.”

– The research

Jersey State Police said they would continue to investigate all circumstances surrounding the cause of the deadly explosion.

The investigation is coordinated by the police and includes the fire brigade and gas technicians working on site, which is still cordoned off.

Police said these investigations are likely to continue in the coming weeks.

Jersey Police Chief Robin Smith said on Sunday: ‘The police are very independent operationally, I am completely independent from anyone in terms of this investigation.

“We will look for experts who are also independent, as we would with any investigation where there are certain specialties, rest assured, this will be an independent investigation.”

Asked if any criminal activity was suspected, he said: “We are not ruling anything out.”

– The impact on the community

Co-Rector of St Helier’s Parish Church, James Porter, said the incident had had a ‘profound’ impact on the community, particularly as it came days after three fishermen went missing at sea off Jersey’s west coast.

Speaking at the church the day after a candlelight vigil was held for those affected by the blast, Mr Porter said: ‘This has impacted the community in a profound way.

‘It’s a very small community in Jersey, and a lot of people know a lot of people, so there are a lot of links.

“I think following the tragedy of the lost fishermen earlier this week, it was hard for people to digest too.”

Mr Porter added that he was encouraged by the deluge of donations and offers of help in St Helier, and that the church would be open to anyone who needed it.

A candlelight vigil was held at the nearby parish church of St Helier on Saturday evening for those affected by the tragedy, and a note had been left on a bulletin board reading ‘give strength to the families lost this week’.

Associate Rector James Porter said the incident had a “profound” impact on the community, particularly as it came days after three fishermen went missing at sea off Jersey’s west coast.

Mr Porter, 48, said at the church: ‘The church here is in the heart of the town and just a few hundred yards from where the tragedy took place.

“This has deeply affected the community. It’s a very small community in Jersey, and a lot of people know a lot of people, so there are a lot of links.

“I think following the tragedy of the lost fishermen earlier this week, it was hard for people to digest too.”

The scene of an explosion and fire in a block of flats in St Helier, Jersey.  At least three people were killed and a dozen are missing after the blast.  Photo date: Sunday, December 11, 2022. PA photo.  See PA story POLICE Jersey.  Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Police have said they will likely search through the rubble for weeks (Picture: PA)

Handout screengrab of video issued by the Jersey government of emergency responders at the scene of an explosion and fire at a block of flats in St Helier, Jersey.  At least three people were killed and a dozen are missing after the blast.  Issue date: Saturday, December 10, 2022. PA photo.  See PA story POLICE Jersey.  Photo credit should read: Government of Jersey/PA Wire EDITOR'S NOTE: This handout photo may be used for editorial reporting purposes only for the simultaneous illustration of events, things, or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption.  Reuse of the image may require further permission from the copyright owner.

Mr Smith said it was ‘probable’ the blast was a gas explosion (Photo: PA)

Jersey State Police - As the search progressed in Haut du Mont, hot spots have been discovered.  The site remains very insecure.  A South West Hazardous Area Response Team is on site and will be joined by an Urban Search and Rescue Team from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire & Rescue Service.

The site remains very insecure (Image: Twitter/States of Jersey Police)

L’Ecume II – an 60-foot wooden fishing vessel – sank five miles west of Jersey after colliding with the freighter Commodore Goodwill around 5:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Searches for the three men on board, including the captain named in reports as Michael ‘Mick’ Michieli, were called off at sunset on Friday.

Jersey’s flag will be flown at half-mast on the island’s official buildings “as a mark of respect” for the victims of the blast, the Jersey government said.

The flags will be lowered from 8:00 a.m. Monday morning until sunset on December 23.

A minute of silence will also be held at 11 a.m. on Monday to give the islanders time “to reflect on the incidents that led to the loss of life,” the government said.

Contact our news team by emailing webnews@metro.co.uk.

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