Redcar SSI: Two men killed in explosion near gas pipes at former steelworks site

View of South Bank coke ovens as the fire is being contained
Image caption Fire crews were at the site overnight

Two men have died in an explosion at a former steelworks site.

Fire crews were called to the old coke ovens at the SSI site in South Bank, Middlesbrough, on Thursday afternoon.

It is believed the men were inside a cherry picker at a height, working on pipes near a gas holder when the explosion happened.

The site was evacuated and police widened a 250m (820ft) cordon after flames were seen coming from the blast area.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "We will examine every single detail of the work that was being conducted. We will make sure we do everything to understand exactly what happened.

"It is impossible to imagine the pain and distress which this news will have brought the loved ones of those involved."

On Friday afternoon four firefighters remained at the scene "on protective standby", Cleveland Fire Brigade area manager Steve Johnson said.

Image caption Although the fire had been contained the smoke could still be seen

Dave Cocks, who used to work on the SSI site, said: "It would appear that this terrible accident has happened in part of that gas-cleaning process.

"Clearing a site of this nature does take a lot of planning and preparation and there's no doubt over the last four years there will be areas off the plant where there would be materials that would need to be removed to keep the plant safe for demolition.

"The clearing of any industrial site does present certain risks and hazards that have to be eliminated wherever possible.

"Closing down an iron-making site of this size is very rarely done in the UK so the planning could take months or indeed years, and it could be years and years before we see the site cleared."

Cleveland Police has declared it a major incident.

Det Supt Tariq Ali said: "The families of those two men have been informed and our thoughts remain with them at this very difficult time."

The Health and Safety Executive has been informed and all work on the site has been suspended.

The South Bank coke ovens were part of the SSI complex, which had offices and a blast furnace in nearby Redcar.

The steelworks announced its closure in 2015 when its Thai-based owners went into liquidation and 2,200 workers lost their jobs.

In January, a deal was agreed to transfer more than half of the developable land at the former Redcar Steelworks to the South Tees Development Corporation.

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