No survivors found in search of rubble after Jersey flats destroyed in explosion

Rescuers on the scene of the explosion on Pier Road, St Helier Credit: Government of Jersey

No survivors have been found after rescuers spent the night searching the wreckage of a block of flats in Jersey.

The Haut du Mont flats in St Helier were destroyed in an explosion just before 4am on Saturday 10 December.

Rescuers have warned they "expect to find more" bodies in the rubble.

Five people have been confirmed to have died and four people are still missing - but the island's Chief of Police has confirmed the overnight search revealed "no signs of life" at the site.

Robin Smith said: "It is with sadness that I am confirming that the search and rescue operation had been moved to a recovery operation. The decision was made after a detailed assessment and following the use of specialist canine units.

“Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) strategies are in place and specialist officers are surveying the scene with Fire and Ambulance Services and tactical advisors from Urban Search and Rescue (USAR).”

He added that while three deaths had been confirmed, rescuers are no longer expecting to find any of those still missing alive.

CCTV footage obtained by ITV News captured the moment of the explosion in St Helier

Jersey's government tweeted a video of firefighters and specialist rescue teams, including a dog, on the scene in St Helier on Saturday night.

The footage captured some of the devastation and debris behind the cordon – including piles of rubble, crushed cars and a blown-out window in the neighbouring building.

The government said: “We’re on-site coordinating a methodical and meticulous multi-agency search effort.

“This involves a number of stages, including vacating the site for short periods to allow dogs to enter, and the careful movement of debris.”

Around 40 people remain in temporary accommodation.

Jersey's Chief Minister, Kristina Moore, praises the hard work of the rescue teams combing through the wreckage at Haut de Mont.

On Saturday night, Jersey Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer, Paul Brown, told a press conference that specialist rescue teams from areas like the Isle of Wight and Hampshire had been drafted in to help with the response.

He said: “The plan is that we will continue searching and we have no other plan at this stage.

“We are just continuing to search and most of our efforts at the moment are about organisation and logistics of securing the right support at the right time, and making sure that the right equipment arrives in the right sequence.”

“The area is being lit and teams will be working tonight, all night, and we will not stop for the time being,” he added.

Rescuers from on and off the island have spent the night searching the wreckage of the Haut de Mont flats Credit: Government of Jersey

Mr Brown also spoke about the caution they are taking, saying: “The primary challenge is the fact that we have a dangerous structure that has collapsed.”

“Anything that we do, or do in the wrong way, may then jeopardise the chance of survival of anyone who might be rescued,” he added.

Chief Minister Kristina Moore told the press conference that at least three people had died, describing the incident as an “unimaginable tragedy” for the island.

Jersey's Police Chief says a senior detective has been assigned to investigate the blast.

Meanwhile, the Police Chief confirmed around 12 people were still missing, adding: “My hope, of course, is that the number is a lot less.”

Mr Smith said it was a “protracted incident” that could “go on for days, maybe weeks”.

He described said the scene in St Helier as one of “tragedy” and “complete devastation”.

The Chief has previous experience dealing with major incidents, as he served as the British Transport Police's gold commander during the 2017 Manchester Arena attack. He said the disaster in Jersey is "as big as it gets" for the island.

Meanwhile, the island's Chief Fire Officer confirmed that firefighters had been called to the Haut de Mont at 8.36pm on Friday night and had carried out investigations.

It's understood residents reported smelling gas in the hours leading up to the huge blast.

Emergency personnel at the scene of an explosion and fire at a block of flats in St Helier Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Gas supplier Island Energy said it was working with the fire service to “understand exactly what has happened”.

Residents of the flats have been moved to St Helier Town Hall, where they are being supported.

Speaking to ITV News on Sunday morning, Jersey's Chief Minister Kristina Moore, gave an update on the overnight search effort:

"Emergency services have been working throughout the night with the specialist equipment that was sent over from both Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service and the Ministry of Defence.

"Sadly they have not been able to identify any signs of life on the site, so they have moved this now into a 'recovery operation'.

"The families have been informed and work will carry on very carefully over the coming days and weeks.

Jersey's Chief Minister, Kristina Moore, told ITV News "no signs of life" were found on the site.

At a press conference on Sunday, Mr Smith said that the families of the victims were being supported. He said:

“We have moved to a recovery stage, it’s a moment to think about the families.

“We have deployed family liaison officers to the families, it’s utterly important we are sensitive to their emotions as we begin a meticulous and painstaking search of the debris following the explosion.”

Police Chief Robin Smith gives an update on the 'recovery operation' at Haut du Mont.

He added: "We are not going to be here for days, we are going to be here for weeks and it’s important I make that clear. It is not going to happen quickly, it’s going to happen carefully and sensitively."

He confirmed the death toll remains at three, with around 12 others still missing.

Paul Brown, Jersey's chief fire officer, acknowledged that something has gone "horribly wrong" after the fatal explosion.

Speaking at Sunday morning’s press conference, he said: “Something clearly has gone wrong as a building has exploded and collapsed.” He added that it had gone “horribly wrong”.

Mr Brown told reporters that the fire service will be “cooperating fully” with “honesty” and “transparency”, but the main focus is currently the search operation.

The recovery operation at the site is ongoing, with Jersey's government tweeting that the cordon around the area of Mount Bingham is likely to remain in place "for the rest of the day":

The Jersey flag will fly at half mast on the island’s official buildings “as a sign of respect” for those affected by the explosion.

The flags will be lowered from 8am on Monday until sunset on December 23.

A one-minute silence will also be held at 11am on Monday to give islanders a moment to “reflect on the incidents that have resulted in loss of life”, also referring to three Jersey fishermen who have been missing since Thursday - when their boat collided with a freighter and presumably sank.

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