Oldham explosion: Child's death treated as suspicious

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Media captionThe fire service says the blast may have been caused by a gas leak

The death of a child in an explosion in Oldham is being treated as suspicious, Greater Manchester Police said.

The boy, believed to be two years old, died in the explosion which happened at about 11:15 BST on Tuesday.

A man, 27, not thought to be related to the child, was pulled from the rubble and has been airlifted to Wythenshawe Hospital with serious burns.

Two houses in Buckley Street in the Shaw area of Oldham were destroyed in the blast, said police.

It is understood police are not, at this stage, treating the case as murder.

'Disturbance rumours'

House numbers 9 and 11 were destroyed in the explosion and several other houses were also damaged.

Supt Neil Evans urged anyone with information about an alleged disturbance on Monday evening to contact police.

He said: "We are 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."

Image caption Two houses in Buckley Street were destroyed in the blast

Speaking about the child's death, Mr Evans added: "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."

Emergency crews believe everyone is now accounted for following the explosion.

The scene was described as "catastrophic" by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's station manager Dean Nankivell.

He said: "It's just a great big pile of bricks.

"Whatever has caused this has gone with some force."

He said gas was "definitely a strong contender" for being the cause of the blast.

'Blitz spirit'

Alex Perkins, who lives across the road, said: "It's like a war zone - tiles that have blown off literally across the streets, there's just debris everywhere. It's mad."

National Grid said there was a report of a "gas escape" at 10:40 BST in the Edmund Street and Buckley Street area of Shaw.

The company added: "This was shortly followed by another call to report that there had been an explosion."

One hundred homes were evacuated and Oldham Council set up a rest centre at Crompton House School in Rochdale Road for residents removed from their homes.

Councillor Jean Stretton, who is helping to co-ordinate facilities for residents, said there was a "blitz spirit" at the centre.

"There is a mix of people who are quite subdued because of the shock of what has happened here today, but there is also a lot of community spirit going on," she said.

"We've had a lot of support from the local community with people coming and bringing donations of clothes and baby chairs. The local stores have brought things like food and nappies and water, there has been a fantastic response."

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