Gas explosion in Ostend: three seriously injured and up to twenty buildings damaged
A heavy gas explosion in the Belgian city of Ostend on Thursday morning seriously injured three people and damaged up to twenty buildings, Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein (Open VLD, Flemish liberals) stated at a press conference following the explosion.
The explosion occurred around 11.30am in the centre of the coastal city. During works at the corner of Christinastraat and Ooststraat, a sheet pile reportedly hit a high-pressure pipe. In response to the resulting gas leak, emergency services were already at the scene when the explosion occurred.
The explosion took place at 11.36 am. "So far, three injured people have been taken to specialised hospitals. Among them are a police officer, a firefighter and a woman who was working in the building. The building houses a take-away business that employs people and children with disabilities. One of their supervisors was injured," said Mayor Bart Tommelein. "It is all the more painful that it happened there."
It has since become clear that 15 to 20 buildings were damaged. Residents of those buildings have been evacuated. Utilities will be cut off until at least 8 pm on Thursday and people will not be able to return to their homes. A shelter has been set up in the cultural centre De Grote Post, where people are receiving victim assistance. The city's crisis cell is meeting to further monitor the situation.
"It is currently unclear whether the explosion occurred on the street or inside the building. Experts still need to further investigate the circumstances," Tommelein said. A nearby school has not been evacuated, a day care centre with some 22 children has. The children are also being cared for in De Grote Post. The stability of the damaged buildings is still being investigated.
"Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We hope everything will be all right there. In addition, our priority is to take care of the evacuees," Tommelein concluded.
The site of a gas explosion that occured in the city centre of Ostend on Thursday 13 October 2022 © BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER