Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1985: Gas blast kills eight in Putney

10 January 1985 Eight people have been killed in an explosion in a prestigious block of flats in Putney, south-west London.
Dozens were also injured when the blast demolished Newnham House, a three-storey block of six flats on Manor Fields Estate in Putney Hill.

The blast has been compared to a 50lb bomb going off and has caused an estimated £250m worth of damage.

It is believed that the accident, which happened at 0715 GMT, was caused by a fractured cast iron main pipe below ground.

A number of residents smelt gas in their flats in the morning and contacted South East Gas Board.

In Context
Flats on the exclusive Manor Field estate were worth around £100,000 before the accident. Hours after the blast, police had to chase away looters who were trying to pick spoils from the ruins.
Police found a collection of plastic bags stuffed with £20 notes totalling thousands of pounds, among the debris.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, some residents claimed that it was linked to problems with a central heating system installed three years earlier. They complained that they had contacted the gas board on several occasions about possible gas leaks.

A government report concluded that the explosion was caused by gas leaking into the building from a crack in a cast-iron gas main.

An earlier government report had recommended that all cast iron pipes be replaced with PVC pipes. Before the blast, more than half of Britain's mains pipes, including those at Newnham, were still in cast iron.

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