One dead as explosion causes houses to collapse in Antwerp

Summary

An incident much like one that happened in another Antwerp neighbourhood last year repeated itself yesterday, as houses collapsed following a likely gas explosion

Works were being carried out in street

Three houses in Wilrijk, a district of Antwerp, collapsed yesterday afternoon following an apparent gas explosion. An elderly woman died in the explosion.

Rescue workers pulled three people out of the debris on Ridderveld yesterday afternoon. All three were taken to hospital. One has been released, but the others are still in hospital, one of them in serious condition. The body of an 87-year-old resident was found late last night.

Houses and flats surrounding the three that collapsed are also damaged. The cause of the explosion is under investigation, but mayor Bart De Wever said that it was most certainly caused by gas.

Whether the source was in one of the houses or due to works being carried out in the residential street by Aquafin is not known. Aquafin, Flanders’ wastewater treatment agency, had been working on sewer pipes in the U-shaped street, though had not been on site for several days.

Also under investigation is a gas leak that had been fixed on 22 August at precisely the spot where the explosion took place. Energy network manager Fluvius, who had repaired the leak, was on site in Ridderveld yesterday as was Aquafin.

The explosion recalls a similar incident in Antwerp early last year, when two residential buildings collapsed in Paardenmarkt in the north of the city centre. Two people died in the explosion, which was attributed to a gas leak that had been ignored by a landlord for several months.

Photo: Jonas Roosens/BELGA