Fifteen hurt as British gas explosion flattens homes

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Fifteen people were injured Tuesday when a gas explosion ripped through a row of houses in northwest England, but firefighters said it was miraculous more people were not hurt.

Three homes completely collapsed and twenty other properties were damaged in the blast which occurred shortly after 0700 GMT in Irlam, a town outside Manchester, witnesses and firefighters said.

"It was total chaos when we first arrived," firefighter Paul Duggan said.

"I am amazed, it is miraculous that there weren't more people seriously injured," he said.

An 82-year-old woman is in a critical but stable condition in a hospital near Manchester. Fourteen others, including five children, were taken to hospital with minor injuries with three adults due to stay in overnight.

City West Housing, which owns the property at the source of the blast, said a new kitchen and bathroom had just been fitted and that they would take "full responsibility" if they were to blame.

Leon Barker, who was living in the house next door, spoke of his relief.

"I don't think any of us realise how lucky we have been, the injuries are mainly superficial," he said.

"There must have been a gas leak and the old lady next door got up to make her porridge and it seems that ignited it."

© 2010 AFP

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