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Wirral explosion-affected businesses 'may never reopen'

Wirral blast
Image caption An aerial view shows the huge extent of the damage

Half of the businesses in a town hit by a huge suspected gas explosion are "out of action" and "some may never reopen", a residents' group has claimed.

Thirty businesses cannot trade because of collapsed or damaged buildings, New Ferry's Residents' Association said.

Two people were seriously hurt and 31 others injured in the blast in Bebington, Wirral on Saturday evening.

The site remains a crime scene as Merseyside Police investigate the cause of the explosion.

'Absolutely devastating'

Ann Grimes, 44, who has run the Cleveland pub for three years, said: "I don't have insurance to cover wages or losses.

"I don't think the traders can come back from this. If that building comes down I have no livelihood, nothing.

"I'm a single mum. I've got a rented home. My 10-year-old son keeps asking what's wrong. I can't explain how bad it is going to be. It could be weeks or months before we even know. It's bleak."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Bricks "fell like rain" following the explosion, according to witnesses

Residents' association chairman Mark Craig, 54, said: "The whole shopping precinct has been closed. [Businesses] were living hand to mouth as it is. Some of them may never reopen. A catastrophe like this could finish them off completely. The sheer scale of the damage, the impact is huge."

Ms Grimes, who said she put her "heart and soul" into renovating the pub, was inside the building when the blast happened at about 21:15 GMT.

"The explosion came first then there were flying bricks. People were covered in blood and screaming for help. The whole community is in shock."

Image copyright Lew Hopkins/ Google Streetview
Image caption Images (top) show the aftermath of the collapse and the building beforehand (below)
Image caption The National Grid said it had found no trace of gas following reports that leaks had been probed near to the blast scene

Wirral Chamber of Commerce (WCC) said there were "huge barriers" to trading and many businesses, including florists, butchers and glazers, were struggling to access stock, electronic ordering systems and price lists.

It said it wanted to reopen the old Co-op building in the town to provide space for trading.

A meeting was due to be held at 17:30 BST in the village hall for businesses to get advice and support.

Meanwhile, residents affected by the explosion are being urged to contact Wirral Council for help.

Ten people have been placed in emergency accommodation but others who were forced to leave their homes have not been in touch, the council said.

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