London, October 22
Two people were killed after a suspected gas explosion that led to a building collapse in Southall, the west London suburb with a large Punjabi-origin Indian diaspora population.
The explosion occurred at a hair salon and phone shop underneath a set of flats on Wednesday.
Four adults and one child, of Punjabi-origin, were rescued at the rear of the property using a ladder, while several people from nearby homes evacuated the King Street area of Southall as London Fire Brigade worked on the “protracted” incident.
The Metropolitan Police said the two people killed in the explosion are yet to be formally identified but some local reports indicate that the victims may be of Indian-origin.
"A large explosion was found to have taken place inside a shop. Emergency services entered the building and sadly, two people were pronounced dead at the scene. Formal identification has not taken place, and next of kin have not been informed," a Met Police spokesperson said.
"An early assessment suspected the cause to be a gas explosion. Emergency services are continuing to work together to establish the exact cause which is currently unexplained," the spokesperson said.
Police cordons will remain in place around the King Street area as a "precautionary measure" whilst the incident continues to be investigated.
Jatinder Singh, the Indian-origin owner of the shop Dr Phone which was burnt down in the fire, told local media that he was in a state of shock.
“I don't know how to explain how I'm feeling. I have lost everything. I don't know what to say – I'm in shock,” he said.
London Fire Brigade said it was called to the fire early on Wednesday and rushed in six fire engines and around 40 firefighters.
“Our crews have searched the property using specialist equipment including the use of a USAR [urban search and rescue] dogs. We can confirm that sadly two people have died at the scene,” London Fire Brigade Station Commander Paul Morgan said in a statement.
“It has been a painstaking and protracted incident with firefighters working systematically to stabilise the building and search for people involved. In the initial stages, firefighters rescued four adults and one child were rescued at the rear of the property using a ladder. A further 14 adults and two children self-evacuated from surrounding properties,” he said.
The Fire Brigade said the explosion had caused substantial damage to the shop and structural damage throughout and that their operation would spill over into Thursday.
London Ambulance Service also sent in paramedics and said it had treated and discharged one person at the scene.
Social media footage of the fire showed firefighters at work to rescue people trapped in a flat above the shops. PTI
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