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One death reported from house explosion

Emergency services at the scene of the house explosion in Southampton yesterday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A 49-year-old man has lost his life while his wife remains critical in hospital after an explosion tore through apartments on Monday night near St Anne’s Road in Southampton.

The victim was a popular member of staff at a local business. Police will not reveal his identity until next of kin have been informed.

A police spokesman confirmed yesterday afternoon that the Filipino guest worker had succumbed to his injuries.

His wife, 50, also a guest worker from the Philippines, remains in treatment at the intensive care unit of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

This evening, friends of the dead man visited the property – which remained cordoned off and under police guard – to pay respects to the victim.

One man, who said he had known the victim for eight years, said he received a phone call from another friend at around 8am telling him of the fatality.

Fighting back tears, he said: “I didn’t know anything about the explosion because I live in Hamilton, so the call was the first I knew about it.

“I’ve come here now to try and understand what happened. My friend was a good person – a nice man. He was my best friend. This is hurting.”

The suspected gas explosion injured several residents, with five people treated in hospital after the blast just after 8.45pm yesterday destroyed part of the building at Hilltop Court.

It is understood that the victim and his wife were among those injured when the explosion struck their apartment and brought down the upper level.

The deceased, also a father, was a well-liked member of staff and prominent in one of the island’s churches.

Other occupants of the building reported a narrow escape from the explosion, which was felt by residents miles away.

One person reported on social media that their father, a senior, was recovering after leaping from a window to avoid the blast.

Local MPs Crystal Caesar and Jason Wade were also at the site yesterday evening providing comfort to residents.

The pair said that the families left homeless by the tragedy had found temporary accommodation in the neighbourhood.

The destroyed property had been divided into four units housing seven occupants.

Ms Caesar said that food vouchers had already been donated to the families, but more needed to be done.

She said: “The community has stepped in and the families have found temporary accommodations. We’ve had a big push from the community that donated a lot of groceries. We’re here to make sure their long-term needs are going to be taken care of. These people have lost everything.

“We want to give them the opportunity to let it all settle in as best they can. The whole community is shaken. It really is a community and everybody wants an opportunity to decompress a bit and we’re just making sure that the residents are being taken care of.

Mr Wade added: “Our concerns are to make sure the families have what they need in both the medium and long term. We need to make sure those bases are covered.

“They’re going to need things like furniture, household items, clothing. We have to make sure they have what they need when they move on to the next stage.

“We’re going to find them permanent accommodations but it's the furnishings that they will need. We’re going to focus on the big items from the big companies like Gorham’s, Masters, PriceRite. Hopefully they’ll give generously.“

Earlier yesterday Michael Weeks, the Minister for National Security also visited the site.

Mr Weeks said: “This incident continues to be foremost on our minds today. It was incredibly tragic to learn that one of the injured persons has succumbed to their injuries, and I extend my sincerest condolences to the family of the deceased.

“This morning, I had an opportunity to speak with some of the area residents, who were understandably still very shaken from last night’s occurrence.

“While I was at the site, Divisional Officer Jay Donawa provided me with the latest update in the ongoing investigation being carried out by the BFRS.

“I want to again express my thanks to all our emergency responders who attended the scene and assisted in addressing this critical incident. We owe them our gratitude and thanks.”

The incident is now the subject of a joint investigation involving the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and the Bermuda Police Service.

The police spokesman added: “The investigators appreciate all information received so far and urge anyone with additional details that can assist with inquiries to call 247-1744 as soon as possible.”