Jonas Roosens

Wide area cordoned off as work continues to find victims of Antwerp explosion

The police has cordoned off an area comprising several streets in a residential area of the Antwerp district of Deurne as the emergency service continue to sift through rubble in an effort to find survivors of an explosion that happened early on Tuesday afternoon. Residents as far as three streets away felt the shock from the explosion and saw some on their possession fall over or clocks and paintings fall off the wall. The explosion happened on the corner of the Ridderveld and the Palmanshoevestraat in the Valaar area of Wilrijk. 

By 3pm two victims had been freed from under the rubble. Since then a third person had been located and freed. It is believed another person is  still trapped. Before the cause of the explosion had been officially confirmed the Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (Flemish nationalist) spoke of a “gas explosion” in a message he posted on the social media platform Twitter.  Mr De Wever went on to thank the emergency services and to express solidarity with and support for the victims and their families. Gas has since been confirmed as the cause of the explosion.  

The gas and electrictity supply to the areas has been cut off.  The Judicial Authorities have launched an investigation and and Examining Magistrate has been sent to the scene. 

At the time of the explosion the waste water purification company Aquafin was carrying out work in the street outside. Experts from Aquafin will now examine video footage of the incident in an effort to ascertain what exactly could have caused the explosion. The Aquafin workers were on their lunch break when the explosion occurred.

Meanwhile, the company in charge of managing the gas and electricity network Fluvius says that it has no knowledge of any work being carried out on gas mains or electricity cables in the area.  

The Red Cross and the police victim support unit is at the scene to offer psychological support to those that need it.  

A local resident told journalists that "A number of my windows have been smashed and my front door is jammed. I climbed outside through a window, but I don’t think that I’ll be able to get back in. In any case the police have evacuated all the buildings in the area as their might still be a danger of an explosion”.