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Donations for Oldham blast residents "overwhelming"

The scene of devastation in Shaw Photo: PA

Officials running a hardship fund for those affected by the explosion in Shaw, Greater Manchester, said today they have been "overwhelmed" with donations.

Oldham Council also said it was now accepting applications from residents whose lives were disrupted by the blast.

Financial support for the residents could be made available early next week, the authority said, and those facing severe hardship may be able to receive immediate help.

Two-year-old Jamie Heaton died and neighbour Andrew Partington, 27, suffered serious burns as Tuesday's explosion flattened their homes and damaged scores of other houses.

A spokesman for the council said: "Oldham Council has been overwhelmed by public donations to support the people affected by this week's explosion in Shaw.

"From today we are accepting applications from affected residents for support from the Oldham distress fund.

"Staff are on hand at the advice centre on Farrow Street and will help affected residents to complete the application forms for monetary support.

"We hope to arrange payments of monetary support granted by early next week. Staff will also arrange for immediate financial support where required."

No figure was given for the running total for the fund.

The council said household items including furniture which have also been donated by the public will be made available to those who need it.

Toddler Jamie was killed while watching TV in his home but his mother miraculously survived after stepping out to hang out washing in the yard.

Michelle and Kenny Heaton hugged each other next to a makeshift shrine of flowers from well-wishers as they returned to the site for the first time yesterday.

In a statement on their behalf, the couple said their son was "unique and amazing".

Mr Partington remains unconscious and sedated at Wythenshawe hospital, where he is being treated for serious burns.

Greater Manchester Police described the investigation as a "search for the truth" and said they were keeping a "completely open mind".

A 32-year-old maintenance man who is understood to have checked the boiler at Mr Partington's rented home was bailed by police following his arrest for manslaughter.

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