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Pet dog found alive and well in collapsed house

Collapse: The apartment block in Southampton where Shane Francis was living (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A pet dog trapped for two days in the apartment block that collapsed in a suspected gas explosion was pulled from the debris alive and well yesterday.

The dog was being looked after by a resident of the Hilltop Court building in Southampton when the blast happened on Monday.

The resident, Shane Francis, 31, spoke yesterday about the shock and confusion he felt as his home started collapsing around him.

He said he had lost everything in the explosion “apart from the clothes on my back”.

Mr Francis had returned to his upper-level apartment in the block only a few moments before the explosion after taking the dog for a walk.

Mr Francis said: “Lulu was at my feet when I heard this huge ‘boom’. Then the floor beneath me just seemed to open up and fall away and my ceiling started coming down on top of me.”

Mr Francis instinctively curled into a ball and protected his head as he fell through the collapsing floor.

When he finally came to a stop he was at ground level and covered in debris.

“I was totally disoriented. It was completely dark as obviously all the lights had gone out so I couldn’t see anything. I also had some concrete debris on top of me, but I was able to get that off,” he said.

“Also, I was breathing in so much dust from all the debris. I was coughing up lumps.

““There was confusion and chaos but I don’t remember feeling frightened. I think my initial reaction was one of shock. I was like ‘what the hell is going on?’

“After that initial reaction, I had a huge surge of adrenalin.”

Once Mr Francis was able to stand up he called out the names of his neighbours but there was no response.

He said: “Although it was dark I could see flashlights. I think people were using their phone lights to try and make out what was going on.”

He said someone came to his aid after kicking down a door that was blocking his exit. He was then taken to hospital along with four of the other five residents of the block.

He said: “I wasn’t that badly injured, just severe bruising down my left side – my shoulder, my hand and my leg. I’m still getting aches and pains but I think it was the people in the lower apartments who had more serious issues.

“But my biggest concern was for Lulu. She had been by my side when the floor started falling away and once everything had stopped I couldn’t see her anywhere.”

Mr Francis has now moved into an Airbnb apartment provide by his landlord.

He lost everything in the explosion apart from his car, which was parked at the property but was not hit by collapsing masonry.

“I haven’t been able to go to work because I don’t have any clothes. I’ve lost everything – documents, things like my passport, all my possessions.

“It’s frustrating because the property was cordoned off by police and the authorities and they’re not allowing anyone to go over there and see if they can salvage anything.”

Mr Francis was finally able to rescue Lulu yesterday afternoon after a police officer allowed him and the dog’s owner, Alex Jones, to slip through the barrier.

Ms Jones said: “Once we were allowed through, we started calling out Lulu’s name. Then we heard a noise coming from the rubble and were able to see her eyes.

“She was trapped under debris but fortunately it had formed a tent over her and we were able to pull her free.”

Ms Jones said that Lulu, a Cavalier-Shih Tzu cross, was examined by a vet and found to be in good health despite being trapped without food or water for two days.

Ms Jones said: “It was such a relief for us and Lulu – she just seemed so happy to see us.”

Mr Francis added: “Lulu is like family – she is the most precious thing to me, and while I’ve lost everything, that doesn’t matter, as long as she survived. I just feel so glad that we were able to get her back.”

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Published May 05, 2022 at 7:56 pm (Updated May 05, 2022 at 7:56 pm)

Pet dog found alive and well in collapsed house

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