Unit block residents left homeless after explosion

Hamish Broome

UPDATE, October 11 11.53am: SPECIALIST fire investigators from Newcastle will assist local police forensic officers in establishing the cause of Friday night's deadly explosion in Ballina, according to Richmond LAC Inspector Matt Kehoe.

Ballina firefighters and police continued to work at the Owen St scene this morning as shocked neighbours looked on.

Inspector Kehoe confirmed a 47-year old male resident of the units was killed in the explosion.

It's understood the man lived in the lower middle unit of the five-unit block and police are reasonably confident that was where the explosion originated.

Two women were visibly distressed this morning after arriving at the gutted block of units with flowers.

Unable to access the site, they handed the flowers to a nearby police officer. 

Meanwhile, all the other residents of the block have been left homeless with the building condemned as structurally unsound.

One woman who "lost everything" was apparently taken away in an ambulance on Friday night in emotional distress.

Neighbours Steven Clifford and Sally Wooderson said the explosion shook their windows so loudly they thought someone was banging on them to get in.

Before rushing outside, they heard the block of units' windows "popping and cracking" as people gathered in the street.

"Power lines were just zapping and going everywhere," Ms Wooderson said.

"The street just flooded with people and then they (emergency services) blocked the street off."

A photo of the fire at Owen Street taken by Naomi Whitney.
A photo of the fire at Owen Street taken by Naomi Whitney. Naomi Whitney

Another neighbour, John Pearson who lived in nearby Burnet St was almost immediately on the scene and recalled picking up a garden hose in an attempt to extinguish the building flames.

"All the windows were blown up; the flames were already everywhere," he said.

"You couldn't get near it the heat was so intense."

Hamish Broome

UPDATE, October 11 7.26AM: SURVIVORS of an explosion and fire that killed a man at Ballina last night have been left homeless with police saying the building is now structurally unsound.

Residents of a block of units at Owen Street were last night evacuated across the road to the Seagulls rugby league oval while firefighters worked to extinguish the intense blaze that followed an explosion about 7.30pm.

After the fire a man was found dead near the back door of one of the units. Police this morning said the man was still yet to be formally identified.

Police have also said this morning the entire building is now structurally unsound and cannot be entered, leaving the residents of the 10 units homeless.

It is not clear at this stage what provisions have been made to help the residents in the short term.

Investigators are still trying to work out what caused the explosion, but police have said there appear to be no suspicious circumstances.

UPDATE: A MAN has died in a fire in a residential unit block at Ballina, police have confirmed.

Inspector Nicole Bruce said the fire was now largely out and the body of a man has been found in one of the units.

Nobody else was injured.

Insp Bruce said emergency services were called to the scene shortly after 7.30pm when a large explosion rocked the building. By the time they arrived the building was engulfed in "intense" flames.

Insp Bruce declined to comment on what may have caused the explosion or precisely where in the unit block it happened.

Power has been cut to the area, blacking out nearby homes and businesses.

One resident, Julian Treanor, who lives in one of the upper-storey units with his mother, said they were sitting in their home when the explosion happened.

"It shook the house, things were falling down," Mr Treanor said.

"It all happened extremely fast. Mum grabbed her bag and I ran back and grabbed my wallet. We ran outside and we could see flames and smoke pouring out."

The explosion and fire has drawn a huge response from local emergency services, with RFS brigades from around the area, as well as SES units, ambulances, and police.

The entire street has been blocked off by emergency personnel.

Insp Bruce said the unit block was being treated as a crime scene.

Firefighters outside the unit block at Owen Street.
Firefighters outside the unit block at Owen Street. Rebecca Lollback

Original report: FOUR residential units have been destroyed and a person is missing after an explosion at a building at Ballina.

The explosion is believed to have happened about 8pm, setting the Owen Street building ablaze.

Firefighters are on-site battling the blaze now. Police and ambulance officers are on the scene as well.

We have a reporter at the scene about to get a statement from police. We will update with more information as it comes to hand.

Topics:  fire house fire

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