Victims left homeless by metal theft blast demand crackdown

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RESIDENTS whose lives were devastated in a gas blast caused by metal thieves stealing cable last night joined calls for more to be done about the problem.

Months after an explosion ripped through homes in Rhodes Street, Hightown, Castleford, three of the properties have been completely torn down and will need to be completely rebuilt, two need extensive repairs and a sixth was also damaged in the explosion in the early hours of last July.

The gas explosion in Castleford

The gas explosion in Castleford

Such was the force of the blast, many lost everything and were only left with the clothing they wore, but as they surveyed the scene yesterday they said they know they were lucky to escape with their lives.

Yesterday residents, who hope to be able to move back into their homes later this year, met their local MP and the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, who saw for herself the terrible damage that had been caused.

Alan Johnson, one of the residents said: “Its ridiculous that somebody can try and make a few pounds and cause this damage.

“Ten people could have been killed for what £50?”

He added: “I was trapped in the upstairs bedroom waiting for the fire brigade because I could not get downstairs.

“It was a bit worrying, I was deliberating whether to jump out but I could hear the fire engines so I decided to bide my time.

“I just wish that they had managed to catch the person that had caused it,” he added.

Another woman, who did not wished to be named, said she was awoken by a neighbour and managed to get outside and could only watch as her home was devastated.

“To be woken up at that time and then you come outside and within half an hour I had no life because I had lost everything I could not even prove who I was.

“My front door opened and shut opened and then shut and it blew up and my bedroom window blew out and it ended up on my car.

“It has been just horrendous, that’s all I can say.”

Firefighters were called at 1.30am to what they believed was a small kitchen blaze, only to find a string of small fires in a row of six terrace houses.

Investigations revealed the blast was caused after a piece of cable was cut from an overhead line. This affected the earthing of the electrical network in the area and resulted in some unusual electrical activity, which affected some of the gas pipes within the properties. This resulted in the fires and explosion.

Yesterday Ms Cooper, the MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford called for the Government to do more to tackle the growing problem of metal theft.

She wants to see greater powers for police to enter scrapyards and close down dealers not obeying the rules. “People’s lives are being put at risk,” she said.

Last month the Government said scrap metal dealers are to be banned from making cash payments in a drive to stamp out an “epidemic” of theft. Fines under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act will also be increased.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “This Government will do what it takes to protect the public, business and our national heritage from the scourge of metal theft.”