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Major explosion near Antwerp leaves one dead, others injured and missing

14:04 13/06/2024

A major explosion in a building in the Antwerp neighbourhood of Hoboken has left one person dead, five injured and at least four missing.

The explosion may have been caused by gas, but the investigation is still under way.

“The building is very badly damaged,” said Ninke Neirynck, spokesperson for the Antwerp fire brigade.

“It’s a three-storey building, the top two floors of which have been largely destroyed. The whole structure is unstable.”

Six people were found in the rubble, one of whom died from their injuries. Another three were seriously injured and two victims had only minor injuries.

Emergency services were still searching for at least four other residents of the building on Thursday. It is not known whether they were actually inside at the time of the explosion, but the search outside has not yet produced any results.

Rescuers are asking people in the vicinity of the building to maintain complete silence so that they can hear any potential survivors in the rubble.

“We are working on the assumption that there are still people inside,” said Neirynck. “Our first objective now is to locate and free these people.”

The emergency services are using a drone to take aerial images of the destroyed building as it remains too unstable to enter safely.

In the meantime, the street in front of the ruined building is being cleared and a search dog was brought in to go through the rubble.

A special crane is expected to arrive on site to remove the roof and other dangerous debris, facilitating a more thorough search.

Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever and the governor of the province, Cathy Berx, visited the scene of the explosion and the medical intervention plan has been activated to coordinate medical assistance.

The buildings around the one hit by the explosion were evacuated as a precaution.

Photo: Dirk Waem/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons