Police have released the names of seven Jersey residents missing feared dead after an explosion at a block of flats on the island, with more pending. A States of Jersey Police statement said: “The families of seven Islanders missing since the incident at the Haut du Mont site on Pier Road have released their identities.”
“The families, supported by officers within the family liaison team, made the decision this afternoon as the recovery operation continues.”
Those named are Peter Bowler, 72, Raymond (Raymie) Brown, 71, Romeu and Louise De Almeida, aged 67 and 64, Derek and Sylvia Ellis, aged 61 and 73, and Billy Marsden, aged 63.”
The police statement added: “The identities of the other Islanders will be released at a later date.”
Jersey residents today began to return to their homes after the blast.
A cordon around the Haut du Mont explosion in the island’s capital of St Helier was scaled back, allowing some evacuated residents on North Quay Parade access to their properties.
The cause of the explosion, which happened in the early hours of Saturday morning, being investigated.
It comes as Jersey’s energy supplier announced it was carrying out safety testing of the entire island’s gas supply.
Jersey Police chief Robin Smith said yesterday the “likely” cause was a gas leak – although Jo Cox, chief officer at Island Energy, said the flats affected were not connected to the gas network.
In a statement issued today, Ms Cox said: “Island Energy continues to work alongside the emergency services as they continue their recovery operation.
“The company will conduct its own investigation into what happened, as well as helping the various official inquiries.
“Our engineers are safety-testing the island’s gas network, and this will be completed in the next few days. No issues have been detected in the survey so far.”
Several buildings, including the homes of Andy Rawlinson, 54, and Steve McCherry, 60, have been damaged by the blast – with windows smashed and debris strewn across their doorsteps.
The former said he had been woken by an “almighty bang” at 4am and he felt “traumatised” returning home, while Mr McCherry said the impact had thrown him out of bed.
Mr Rawlinson, who has live in Jersey since 1979, said: “It’s scary, it’s traumatic as well.
“It’s horrible being a few hundred yards away from where people are dying and there’s not a thing you can do.
“People have lost their lives so close to Christmas, it’s so so sad.”
Mr Rawlinson added: “I’ve never seen anything like that here. It’s devastating.”
During an address to Jersey’s State Assembly, Chief Minister Kristina Moore said: “One tragic incident is enough to shake a small community.
“To have a second within a matter of days is not something we have ever experienced.
“The devastating explosion at Haut du Mont has shocked everyone in the Island and around the world.
“I’m sure Members will have seen the footage, which makes for painful viewing, and is unprecedented for Jersey in modern times.
“Put simply, most of us will have never seen anything like it.”
(More to follow)