Devon house explosion 'may have been deliberate'

Barnstaple fire
Image caption The explosion blew the roof of the house off

Police are investigating whether an explosion which destroyed a house in north Devon was caused deliberately.

Two men were injured in the blast at the property in Barnstaple on Monday. One remains in a critical condition.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said they planned to speak to the two men once they were well enough.

The blast "effectively demolished" the converted coach house in Litchdon Street, which is being treated as a crime scene while police investigate.

The police spokesman said: "One line of inquiry will centre on whether the cause of the explosion was non-accidental."

Officers originally said they believed the blast was linked to gas cylinders.

The coach house was in the back garden of Cherry Trees, a house owned by Guinness Care and Support.

The organisation houses people with mental health support needs.

In a statement, the charity said: "The explosion effectively demolished the coach house and the two residents who live there are both in hospital.

Image caption Surrounding homes were evacuated

"Guinness Care and Support is co-operating fully with the police inquiry.

"However, we can confirm that the property is all electric, which rules out a fault with the gas supply."

The mental health charity Rethink, which runs a support service at Cherry Trees, said the other residents had been found alternative accommodation.

A spokeswoman said: "We are committed to the safety and wellbeing of those who use our services as well as our staff and have rigorous health and safety procedures in place to this end."

The explosion was so powerful that debris was found in a town square nearly 1,000ft (300m) away.

Walls were blown out and the roof blown off the house in the blast.

Surrounding homes were evacuated and three roads were closed.

Some homes suffered damage including broken windows.

The two men rescued from the coach house underwent surgery after being airlifted to Morriston Hospital in Swansea, which has a specialist burns and plastic surgery unit.

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