Police treating blast which killed boy (2) as suspicious
Detectives investigating a massive explosion that killed a two-year-old in Oldham, Lancashire, last night said that they are treating the death as suspicious.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed that the child, named locally as Jamie Heaton, died in the blast in Shaw, Oldham, and a man, named by neighbours as Anthony Partington, was airlifted to hospital suffering severe burns.
A huge explosion ripped through three houses, according to police.
Police said they were aware of rumours about a domestic incident last night and appealed for information.
Superintendent Neil Evans stressed officers were not called but said: "We are also aware of some rumours within the local community about a potential domestic disturbance in the area last night.
"What I can categorically say is that if that is the case, the police were not called.
"However, if anyone has any information about this, particularly if they think it might be relevant to what happened today, I would urge them to get in touch."
The officer said of the dead child's family: "His loved ones are absolutely distraught and we will provide them with whatever support we can at what is clearly a very difficult and upsetting time.
"This incident has shocked the community of Shaw and I want to reassure them that all emergency services are committed to helping those whose homes are damaged in whatever way we can and to get all others who have been evacuated back home as soon as possible.
"When incidents such as this happen communities really pull together and this is the case in Shaw.
"All residents are rallying around one another and I know they will continue to support each other and the emergency services over the coming hours and days.
"Men and women from all emergency services have taken great risks today and on behalf of GMP I would like to thank them all for their efforts."
Local sources said Mr Partington (27) was originally from Rochdale.
They said he was a qualified joiner but had recently been made redundant.
Dean Nankivell, station manager at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said although the operation at the scene was still being treated as a search-and-rescue mission, everyone had been accounted for and no one had been found trapped in the rubble as first thought.
Mr Nankivell said there was one known death and the injured man rescued by fire-fighters suffered serious burns.
Special equipment and sniffer dogs had scoured the rubble to ensure no one else was trapped.
"The scene down there is catastrophic. It's just a great big pile of bricks," Mr Nankivell said.
"Whatever has caused this has gone with some force. Gas is definitely a strong contender.
"This is looking like a gas explosion.
"Everybody has been accounted for, we are treating it as a search and rescue but leading on to the next phase."
Last night, 80 people from 40 families had sought refuge at the makeshift help centre.
Some were also staying with friends or family nearby, or at local bed and breakfast accommodation, Oldham council said.