A woman has been found dead at the scene of a major gas explosion that destroyed a house in Birmingham and damaged others.
“We’re very sad to confirm that a woman has been found dead at the scene,” West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) said.
A man also suffered life-threatening injuries in the blast in Dulwich Road, Kingstanding, which happened just after 20:30 BST on Sunday.
At least three other homes were damaged and properties were evacuated.
The man was rescued from the house by people at the scene but had suffered “very serious” injuries, the ambulance service said.
Four other men suffered more minor injuries and were discharged by paramedics.
Martin Ward-White, the incident commander for WMFS, told a news conference the woman who died was found “relatively quickly within the property that exploded”.
“It is really sad and tragic, not just for the individuals involved, not just the local community but especially the family and friends of the individuals who have been affected by this,” he said.
“We continue to thank the local residents for their support and understanding.”
Footage on social media showed flames, damage and debris from a terraced red brick house.
“The next steps for the fire service and gas board will be to start the investigation into what caused this explosion,” Mr Ward-White said. “We know it is gas but what actually caused that gas explosion.
“This will probably take a substantial amount of time.”
Twenty-one people were evacuated and had gone to stay at other houses and hotels provided by Birmingham City Council, he added.
The badly injured man was taken to the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment in its major trauma centre.
Residents said they had clambered past flaming debris and through rubble to reach the man.
“Everyone was watching, the house was on fire, nobody was going in, so we could see a way in – so we went in the house, me and about a dozen others,” a man, who did not want to be named, told the PA news agency.
He said dust from a loft insulation was burning around them.
“We got him [the injured man] out, he ended up coming out on a mattress,” he said.
One resident told the BBC she heard a bang before the house and windows shook.
She said the whole community had been affected. “I didn’t sleep last night, it’s so sad.”
Another said of the explosion: “I thought it was a bomb, I thought a bomb had gone off.”
A total of 25 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze after the explosion.
Following the blast and fire, which also damaged vehicles, evacuations took place and people were urged to avoid the area.
West Midlands Police said Dulwich Road and surrounding roads were closed and would be “for a very long time”.
The force thanked those who had “helped shocked and injured neighbours”.
One man posted on Twitter to praise his cousin, who he said had run into the burning building to rescue someone.
Birmingham councillor Sharon Thompson said her thoughts were with everyone involved in the “horrific explosion”.
Six fire crews, three ambulances, five paramedic officers and a national inter-agency liaison officer were among the resources sent to the scene.
Fire service area commander Steve Ball described the scene as “challenging”.
“One house had been completely destroyed and three neighbouring properties had also been quite badly affected,” Mr Ball said.
“There are approximately six other houses that have been evacuated and the residents are currently being looked after by the local authority.”
Rick Payne, a city councillor, went to the scene to help after hearing a “massive explosion” while watching television.
He spoke to the authority’s chief executive who sent emergency planning staff.
Cadent, the gas emergency service for the West Midlands, said its teams were on site as part of the multi-agency response and added its thoughts were with those affected.
Man in critical condition after explosion destroys Birmingham house
Neighbours hauled victim from burning wreckage of house in Kingstanding and four others treated at the scene
A man was in a critical condition after being hauled from his burning home by neighbours after an explosion destroyed the property and damaged several others in a Birmingham street.
The man was in the property at the time of the blast and was helped out by people at the scene, the West Midlands ambulance service said. Four other people were assessed by ambulance crews for minor conditions and were not taken to hospital, the service said.
West Midlands police said one house had been destroyed and other properties significantly affected, while cars were also damaged after the incident in the Kingstanding area.
There were reports that the blast could be heard two miles away.
West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) said people at the scene rescued a man from the destroyed house but he had “very significant injuries” and was taken to hospital.
Residents described how they clambered past flaming debris, through dust and rubble, shortly after the blast, and pulled an injured man alive from the ruins of the house.
One man, who declined to give his name, said: “Everyone was watching, the house was on fire, nobody was going in, so we could see a way in – so we went in the house, me and about a dozen others.
“There was a guy in the back [of the house], we could hear the guy screaming, but he was trapped up against the fridge in the kitchen.
“The dust from the loft insulation was burning around us. We managed to get to him, and pull him out – I still have his blood on my jeans. We got him out, he ended up coming out on a mattress. But he was saying there was a woman in the house.”
A spokesperson for the ambulance service said: “A man was helped from the property by people at the scene but had suffered very serious injuries.
“After assessment and treatment at the scene, he was taken on blue lights to the major trauma centre at Queen Elizabeth hospital Birmingham. His condition on arrival at hospital was described as life-threatening.”
All emergency services, including six fire crews, and utility companies were at the scene on Dulwich Road after police were called at 8.38pm.
The cause of the explosion has yet to be established.
Police said residents are being evacuated and people have been urged to avoid the area. They thanked those who had “helped shocked and injured neighbours”.
Footage on social media showed flames, damage and debris from a terraced redbrick house. Aerial shots shared on Twitter showed flames billowing into the sky.
West Midlands police said earlier: “There are reports of casualties but the number and severity of their injuries is unknown at this time. Those evacuated will be told where to meet.
“People in the area must immediately follow the instructions of first responders. Dulwich Road and surrounding roads are closed and will be for a very long time. Please help us by avoiding the area.”
Rick Payne, a city councillor for the ward, heard a “massive explosion” while watching television and walked across to Dulwich Road to see what had happened.
He told PA Media: “The police are just saying that there’s quite a lot of houses damaged as a result – probably up to five or six houses. The house itself, where the explosion occurred, has physically been destroyed. Houses either side have, partially. Then the houses further along the street have been damaged collaterally from the blast.”
Payne added he spoke to a council colleague in Erdington, two miles away, who “said it could be heard quite clearly”.
The service added that three ambulances, five paramedics, a trauma doctor and critical care paramedic and a hazardous area response team were among those who had been sent to the scene.
West Midlands fire service said: “At 8.38pm fire crews responded to multiple reports of an explosion on Dulwich Lane, Kingstanding. The explosion, the cause of which is unknown at this time, has destroyed one property and caused damage to other properties and vehicles nearby.
“We are working hard with colleagues from West Midlands police, West Midlands ambulance, Cadent Gas and National Grid to manage this incident.”
A spokesperson from Cadent Gas said its personnel were at the site.
“Our teams are on-site at the incident in Kingstanding, assisting the multi-agency response as the gas emergency service for the West Midlands” they said.
“It is too early to speculate on the cause. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted.”