Neighbour saves man from gas explosion as firefighters are thrown to the ground in impact
A man was saved from a massive gas explosion in his home last night after a quick-thinking neighbour alerted him to a fire.
But his home was wrecked in the blast, which blew firefighters off their feet.
A small fire had started shortly before 7pm at the front of a terraced property in Farringdon Gardens, just off the main Ardoyne road in Belfast.
The man in his 50s was inside watching television at the time when his neighbour saw the danger. Fire crews quickly arrived to extinguish the flames.
But around 15 minutes later a huge gas explosion destroyed the house, throwing some of the emergency crew to the ground.
SDLP councillor Paul McCusker was on the street when the shocking blast happened. "The quick action of the neighbour has saved lives tonight," he said.
"The fire service put the fire out very quickly, but shortly afterwards there was a massive explosion. By that stage, the fire service thankfully had everyone on the other side of the street.
"We witnessed fire officers being blown into the air. Thankfully none of them were hurt. Thanks to the quick action of the neighbour and the fire crew there were definitely lives saved here tonight."
He continued: "I commend the emergency services for their tremendous work here tonight.
"The fire service told me if the man had stayed in his house he would have been dead."
After the volatile situation was brought under control, the front of the property was in ruins.
"A young lady lives next door with kids - thankfully she was out," Mr McCusker added.
"There were also children playing on the street shortly before the fire, as it was only around 7pm."
Mr McCusker said the Fire and Rescue Service had told him they believed the blaze may have started underground.
Representatives from Northern Ireland Electricity and gas experts remained at the scene with firefighters late into the evening.
Around 60 homes were evacuated, with most residents allowed to return to their properties after 10pm while electricity on the street was in the process of being restored.
"The people who live in that house are traumatised - but they've been getting plenty of support tonight," Mr McCusker added.