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“It was terrifying”: Residents tell of explosion and fire at Hornchurch flats

PUBLISHED: 21:32 23 January 2017 | UPDATED: 21:34 23 January 2017

Scenes from the explosion. Picture: Alison Braun

Scenes from the explosion. Picture: Alison Braun

Alison Braun

One man tells how he saw injured people fleeing and cars hit by debris

A resident of the Hornchurch flats rocked by an explosion this evening told the Recorder he heard a loud bang and the whole building shook.

Darren Lawrence, 47, said debris hit cars passing by on the A127.

“When I heard the noise I thought a lorry had crashed into the building. I rushed outside and there were people running around, frightened. That was when I realised it was more serious. There was a big fire, the flames were enormous.

“I saw a man bleeding from his ears. Another had a laceration to his head.

“I and another man tried to keep people calm and away from the building. We used cones from the nearby building site to keep people and cars away.”

Darren continued: “I was terrified. We didn’t know what was happening. These flats don’t have gas, only electricity.

“There are about 50 flats and people were turning up after work worried about their cats which were still inside. My phone is inside so I haven’t been able to let my family know that I am OK.”

He said the fire brigade arrived within five minutes. “They were fantastic. We were all running away from the flames and they were running towards them.”

The flats, at the junction of Ardleigh Green Road and the A127, are operated by Swan Housing Association, which this evening took the shaken and shivering residents to the McDonald’s at Gallows Corner to warm up as arrangements were made to rehouse them overnight.

Another resident, Danny French, said: “I was in Romford when I got a phone call to say there had been an explosion and I couldn’t go home. All my belongings are in my flat. But I wouldn’t feel safe going back there.”

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