Hampshire firefighters join Didcot search

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Firefighters from Hampshire are searching the site of a major explosion at Didcot power station.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed it has sent a search and rescue team to help in the hunt for survivors.

Five crew members and two search dogs from Hampshire are amongst those looking for people missing after the building collapsed.

At least one person was killed and five others are in hospital after a concrete and steel building at the derelict Didcot A site in south Oxfordshire came down at around 4pm on Tuesday while it was being prepared for demolition.

A further 50 people were treated for dust inhalation while emergency crews with sniffer dogs worked into the night searching for the missing - although the operation could take “several days”.

Oxfordshire Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Furlong said: “It is still a rescue operation at the moment.

“We have three dog teams on site working overnight, but we haven’t picked up any clear signs of life.

“We are continuing to search and locate the missing persons and we are working hard with the other agencies.”

Mr Furlong said the operation was being hampered because of safety concerns.

He said: “This is a very difficult situation with a very unstable structure.

“The safety of emergency service personnel has to remain our priority, while recognising how hard this must be for families waiting for news of loved ones overnight. Our sympathies are with them, and the family of the person who died here yesterday.

“An expert from Cheshire with similar experience is due on site today to advise on the search.

“The police will be taking over control of the site as part of ongoing investigation but we are continuing working with fire services from Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and the West Midlands, and this work may continue for several days.”

A 100m cordon has been placed around the scene as the rescue operation continues.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Nathan Travis described the site as “challenging”.

He said: “The building is potentially 10 storeys high; half of that building has collapsed, so you have got a rubble pile which is approximately 20 to 30 feet deep at the moment.

“The search will be considerable due to the instability of the site; we expect the search to continue throughout the night and possibly into the coming days.”

Asked about the chances of finding those missing alive, he replied: “At the moment I can’t give you any details on that but it is a substantial collapse of a building.”

Pictures from the scene showed a significant chunk of a building in the defunct Didcot A site has collapsed, with a large amount of debris on the ground.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spokeswoman said two investigators were called to the scene on Tuesday evening and were continuing to work with police.

A GMB union official told the Press Association that workers were preparing two boilers for demolition in the coming week, and that is believed to have led to the collapse of the building.

People in Oxfordshire have been asked to consider whether they require emergency hospital care after a major incident was declared.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust statement said: “We are grateful to members of the public for avoiding attending our Emergency Department for anything other than serious or life-threatening emergencies.”

Witness David Cooke, whose company, Thames Cryogenics, has a building overlooking the power station, said: “Our building shook and, as we looked out of the window, the end of the main turbine hall collapsed in a huge pile of dust.

“It totally obscured the towers and must have drifted across the roads and main rail line. What’s left looks a tangled mess.

“The dust was hanging over the area for five to 10 minutes.”

Didcot A opened in 1970 as a coal-fired power station and was later converted so it could also generate power from natural gas.

It ceased generation in March 2013 and hundreds gathered to watch when three of its enormous cooling towers were blown up in July 2014 after dominating the town’s skyline for more than four decades.

The incident comes 16 months after a major fire struck a cooling tower at Didcot B in October 2014.

The blaze affected 50% of the station output - supplying a million homes.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, the Conservative MP for Didcot, said two of the injured were in a serious condition.

He wrote on his Twitter account: “Awful events at Didcot. Our emergency services in Oxon have been outstanding. Help from Berks, Bucks, Cheshire & Merseyside. Thank you.

“Thoughts with family of man tragically killed, and those waiting for news of 3 missing. Many minor injuries, 2 serious.”

A solitary floral tribute left at the scene reads: “Rest in peace. To a hardworking soul. From a ‘Didcot’ resident. Thoughts of those injured and those missing.”