Nine confirmed dead after block of flats destroyed in Jersey explosion

There was an explosion at Haut de Mont on Pier Road just before 4am on Saturday 10 December. Credit: PA

Nine people have now been confirmed to have died after a block of flats was destroyed in an explosion in Jersey's capital, St Helier, just before 4am on Saturday.

The island's Chief of Police confirmed the death toll has risen and says he does not expect to find any more people at the site.

On Monday, Jersey Police named seven people missing since the blast, with two more people publicly identified on Tuesday.

In a statement issued on Thursday 15 December, Police Chief Robin Smith confirmed the death toll had risen:

"One further fatality has been confirmed at the Haut du Mont site on Pier Road. The number of Islanders confirmed to have died in the blast is now nine.

"We believe there are no more residents that remain unaccounted for. The search operation will continue until the site has been fully cleared."

Mr Smith said the islanders publicly named are yet to be officially confirmed to have died:

"The fatalities have not yet been formally identified. The Disaster Victim Identification process must be carefully considered and managed in a dignified and compassionate way.

"Therefore, we are not yet able to confirm if the fatalities that have been found at the site correspond to the identities released by the missing islanders' families."

CCTV footage obtained by ITV News captured the moment of the blast

On Saturday, Officers cordoned off a large part of St Helier, with officers urging people to stay away from the area surrounding Mount Bingham:

"We are currently dealing with an incident on Pier Road, St Helier. As a result, Pier Road, Pier Road car park and South Hill are closed at this time. We advise members of the public to avoid the area at this time."

Ambulances line up along Pier Road heading towards Haut de Mont

The explosion was heard across the island with a large plume of smoke visibly billowing from the area of Mount Bingham.

The Haut de Mont flats were owned by Andium Homes - the public housing company owned by Jersey's government.

A company spokesperson said officers are working to ensure anyone who has lost a home will have somewhere to stay:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the incident at Haut du Mont this morning, their families, friends and loved ones.

"Throughout the day colleagues at Andium Homes have been supporting residents to ensure that all those that have needed short-term accommodation, and other support have had it and continue to have it.

"All the residents evacuated by the emergency services have now been offered alternative accommodation that is safe and warm and they will be offered ongoing support and practical help from us over the coming days."

Smoke was seen billowing from an adjacent property which caught fire after the blaze.

Andium's statement continues: "We have been overwhelmed with all of the offers of support from individuals and businesses, we will continue to help coordinate that support as much as we can.

"Our sincere thanks must go out to the Emergency Services for their sterling work, we will continue to support them with their efforts in making the site safe and investigating the cause of the incident."

The Emergency Department at Jersey's General Hospital closed after a major incident was declared - and islanders were told to avoid calling 999 "unless its an absolute emergency" to avoid overwhelming emergency services.

The hospital wards closed to visitors for a time, but have since re-opened.

Fort Regent - the home of Jersey's coronavirus vaccination centre - has been closed due to its proximity to the blast. It has been relocated to Les Quennevais, in the west of the island.

In the explosion, debris was strewn across the road outside Commercial Buildings and towards St Helier's harbour. Windows at nearby properties were also shattered.

Glass shards strewn across the road outside Commercial Buildings
Windows at the nearby Harbour View Apartments were blown out during the explosion

Flights were delayed at Jersey Airport over the weekend, with a number of air ambulances and RAF helicopters brought in to transport injured people to the UK.

Specialist rescue teams have been flown to the island after "pockets of fire" were discovered beneath the rubble.

While at this stage there is no confirmation of the cause of the explosion, Jersey's gas supplier - Island Energy - posted an update:

The Cheif of Police gave a statement just before 10am on Saturday:

"Following the explosion this morning at Haut du Mont, Pier Road, a number of residents are still missing. Emergency services are working at the scene and have commenced a surface search of the site. Relatives are being contacted by Family Liaison Officers."

Mr Smith confirmed to ITV News that fire officials had been called out to inspect the flats on Friday after residents reported smelling gas, with the explosion happening just hours later.

Jersey's Chief Minister and Chief of Police held an emergency press conference.

The island's Chief Minister, Kristina Moore, paid tribute to the emergency services for their ongoing work at the scene, which she said would take “some days” to clear:

"Through these difficult times, I think it’s reassuring for everyone to see what amazing strength we have within our emergency services and, again, we just thank everybody who stepped up and came to the rescue and continue to work on the scene.

"This is going to take some days and we will keep everyone updated and fully informed and we will do our very best to ensure everybody is properly looked after."

Giving an update on Saturday afternoon, she called the explosion an "unexpected and unimaginable" tragedy.

A nearby resident told ITV News what he saw during the blast.

The Police Chief described the explosion and fire as a “protracted” incident, and will go on for “days, maybe weeks”.

Just before 5pm, Mr Smith told a press conference: “A number of staff have worked very long days. This is a protracted incident and this is going to go on for days, maybe weeks, and therefore it is important to have resources to continue to keep going.”

Flags on the island will be flown at half-mast, and a one-minute silence will be observed across the island on Monday 12 December to remember those who died in the blast, along with three Jersey fishermen who have been lost at sea since Thursday when their boat collided with a freight ship off the island's west coast.

The island's emergency helpline - set up during the coronavirus pandemic to report symptoms - has been turned into a support line for friends and family looking for information about family members caught up in the incident.

It can be reached on 0800 735 5566.

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