A woman has told of her fear for her neighbour as police said it may take a “significant” amount of time before investigators can search a block of flats rocked by an explosion, with one person confirmed dead and further fatalities possible.
Monday’s blast and subsequent fire at the three-storey block of 20 flats in Redwood Grove in Bedford has destroyed much of the building’s roof.
Bedfordshire Police said on Monday that one person has died, and the force said a number of people remain unaccounted for.
The person who died has not yet been formally identified, with specialist officers supporting the next of kin of the person believed to be dead.
Investigation work at the block could take several weeks, though an adjacent block of flats could be reopened to residents by the end of the week, police said.
Chief Superintendent John Murphy said the cause of the explosion is still not known and a number of lines of inquiry are being explored.
“It may take a significant amount of time before we can begin to search at the affected site, given the damage that has been caused and the risks that presents to our teams.
“Therefore, at this stage we cannot rule out the possibility of further fatalities being discovered.”
A further three people were taken to hospital on Monday, including a firefighter.
Trevor Gradwell Smith, operational assurance manager at Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said it has been confirmed there are “no main gas supplies to the premises”.
Scientific researcher Karina Caetano, 24, who lives at the affected block, said she was “extremely worried” about her neighbour who she has not seen since before the blast.
Mrs Caetano was on her phone on the sofa when she heard a “very big explosion” and thought someone had “dropped a piano”.
Her husband Adelson, 30, was at his job in construction and logistics at the time.
Mrs Caetano said she saw bricks on the grass outside her ground floor flat, a lot of smoke, then looked up and saw a “massive hole in the side of the building”.
Ms Caetano said she banged on her neighbour’s door so hard that it opened, managed to rescue her neighbour’s dog but couldn’t get further into the flat after the blast, adding: “I yelled for her and didn’t get any response.”
She said her neighbour’s car is still there and she works from home.
“We’re extremely worried for her,” she said.
“The last time she was online on WhatsApp was 9.06am and this happened around 9.15am.
“We’ve called and text – nothing.”
She said she was outside for two hours “watching our lives burn”.
She said she did not care about items from inside her flat, adding: “What right now is killing me inside is not having any news on my neighbour.”
Ms Caetano said they have a good support network, and her sister has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the things they lost.
Care manager Adrian Mazurkiewicz, 27, who also lives at the block, said he had just sat at his computer to start work when there was a “huge, huge explosion”.
“I heard that explosion then I saw debris falling from the sky through my kitchen window,” he said.
“I just shouted to my partner ‘just get out of the flat as soon as possible’.”
He said that on his way down from the flat, on the top floor, he was “just banging on people’s doors, shouting to get out”.
He said that he and his partner had little more than the clothes they were wearing and stayed in a hotel on Monday night, but were among the “lucky ones”.
“Seeing the terror of this event, coming out of that building and seeing people jumping out of the windows, seeing people bleeding on the floor, just laying on the ground really struggling, I count myself one of the lucky ones,” he said.
Police have set up an information centre for people to get in touch, report any concerns or find out about family members at https://mipp.police.uk/.
Concerned family and friends can also call 0800 051 6085.