Gas canister explodes in school playground

A HIGHLY explosive gas cylinder caught fire in a school playground leading to the evacuation of more than 150 residents. The fire started when a gas canister ruptured as workmen were taking down an old iron fire escape at the back of Our Lady of Dolours S

A HIGHLY explosive gas cylinder caught fire in a school playground leading to the evacuation of more than 150 residents.

The fire started when a gas canister ruptured as workmen were taking down an old iron fire escape at the back of Our Lady of Dolours School in Cirencester Street.

Four fire engines and 20 firefighters rushed to the scene and a 200 metre exclusion zone was immediately set up in case the flammable gas exploded.

Worried people from the homes and workplaces surrounding the school were evacuated to a nearby community centre for around four hours.


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Jason Roy Miller, who lives in Senior Street, said: "Police banged on my door and told me that I had to leave the area. I had just taken my medication, which I told them makes me drowsy. They said I may as well go to sleep in the bushes.

"I was told I couldn't come back into my flat due to the risk to my health. The whole of W2 was out of action, and the 18 and 36 buses weren't stopping. The police said I might have to wait all afternoon."

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And Alexander Koop, who lives in Cirencester Street, said: "I think they were welding and one of the gas cylinders caught fire and was unstable and that is why everyone was evacuated.

"I live in the house just in front of the school and I heard people shouting so I left to go and have breakfast and when I came back I wasn't allowed back into my house.

"I was a bit worried it was going to explode. I thought they might have hit a gas pipe so I thought it could get a lot worse.

"If it had exploded I think all the windows would have blown so I was a bit worried when I came back - and at one point we thought we weren't going to be allowed back in for 24 hours."

The cylinder was acetylene which is a highly flammable gas normally used for welding. When it mixes with oxygen it produces an intense flame and when it gets hot the cylinders will explode.

Another Senior Street resident Tjuana Nguyen added: "I was in my flat at around 1pm when I heard someone frantically banging on my door.

"I opened the door and it was the police. They told me there had been a fire due to a gas leak on Harrow Road and I had to leave my flat."

The fire brigade were called at 12.52pm on Monday and the situation was under control by 5pm when the firefighters had sufficiently cooled the volatile cylinder to allow residents back into their homes.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

A spokeswoman for Westminster Council said: "Building work is currently taking place at Our Lady of Dolours Primary School and it appears a gas canister, brought on site by contractors, ruptured or leaked, resulting in a small fire, which was quickly extinguished.

"As a security measure the London Fire Brigade attended the scene and set up a temporary exclusion zone around the school, which was also quickly lifted.

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