Death toll in Jersey blaze likely higher than 3 confirmed
LONDON — Rescuers searching the scene of an explosion at an apartment block on the Channel island of Jersey said on Sunday they expected to recover more bodies after three people were confirmed dead . A dozen people are still missing.
Jersey Police Chief Robin Smith said specialist teams were continuing a thorough search in the area of St. Helier, the island’s capital, and warned it was likely to be weeks before investigations are not completed.
An explosion destroyed a three-story building around 4 a.m. Saturday. Smith said the fire was “probably” caused by a gas explosion, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Smith said firefighters were called to the area the previous night after residents reported the smell of gas. He said police would investigate “whether or not there was a safety issue” with the natural gas lines.
Authorities said on Sunday that the search mission was now a “recovery operation” and that they no longer expected to find anyone alive.
“We’ve moved into a recovery phase, it’s a time to think about families,” Smith said.
Speaking of the 12 people still missing, Smith said it was “a very sensitive area and it’s very difficult to be specific”.
“The area I can be specific about is that we have three confirmed deaths and it’s fair to say we expect to find more,” he said. “Previously we said around a dozen, but it’s hard to make that assessment. We’re hoping not to hit that number, but that’s the number we’re working on.
Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, is a self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom located off the coast of northern France in the English Channel.
Gas supplier Island Energy said it was working with firefighters to “understand exactly what happened”.