February 4, 2023

Jersey’s fire chief defended the emergency services’ response to a deadly explosion that flattened an apartment building after it emerged firefighters had visited the building several hours earlier to investigate reports of a gas leak.

Paul Brown told a press conference on Sunday: “It is a tragic, tragic situation and we are all devastated that islanders have been lost and their families and loved ones are suffering today and will continue to do so.

‘It’s terrible. But islanders can have confidence in their emergency services. Islanders can have confidence in the Jersey State Fire and Rescue Service.”

Read more: Search for corpses ‘takes weeks’

Jersey Fire Chief Paul Brown has defended the fire service
Image:
Jersey Fire Chief Paul Brown has defended the fire service

The blast tore through the three-storey Haut du Mont block in Pier Road in the Channel Island capital Saturday about 4:00 am. There would have been six apartments in the building.

The explosion was also captured on CCTV footage.

Three people are known to have died, with about a dozen people still missing.

Mr Brown confirmed that firefighters had been called to the building at 8.36pm on Friday and were investigating after residents reported smelling gas. The explosion occurred about seven and a half hours later.

He said the explosion was reported around 4 a.m. and he was contacted around 4:30 a.m. He says a formal request for help was made to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service and was immediately accepted.

He explained that there were full logbooks with official timings and labeled Jersey’s fire and rescue service as “a brilliant service”, but said they were “a small fire and rescue service for a small jurisdiction”, and so needed help from neighboring areas.

Photo: Government of Jersey
Image:
Photo: Government of Jersey

While he confirmed that firefighters had been called to the same building the previous night, he said he did not know if there had been any additional calls to the flats in the days leading up to the explosion.

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

Jersey Police Chief Officer Robin Smith said the recovery operation will now “take weeks” due to the “meticulous” nature of the search.

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Moment of explosion in Jersey

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

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

Andium Homes, a state-owned but independent company that manages the flats, says it focuses on supporting residents on the estate.

About 40 people are now accommodated in alternative accommodation.

Kristina Moore, Jersey’s prime minister, said a call center has been set up to coordinate efforts and a fund has been set up to support people displaced by the explosion.

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