Update as regards incident at Osney Mead in West Oxford (Fri Feb 17)

Fire crews from Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service and Urban Search and Rescue advisors from Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue remain at the scene of Tuesday’s incident at Osney Mead in West Oxford.

More than 40 personnel from various agencies remain on site. They are from Fire and Rescue, Thames Valley Police, South Central Ambulance Service’s Hazardous Area Response Team, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council’s Emergency Planning Unit and A2Dominion Housing.

Making buildings safe

Friday’s focus for firefighters remains on making buildings in the area safe so that the responding emergency services can then undertake the job of removing rubble safely.

Some adjoining buildings have in the past 24 hours proved to be very unstable and are requiring considerable delicate work to make safe. Expert structural engineers are advising firefighters in this task.

Once safety measures are in place a police dog will carry out a search of the debris pile and then firefighters will start to remove the rubble so a search can be undertaken to confirm if anybody is under that rubble.

This will then allow detectives, fire investigators and crime scene investigators to determine the cause of the incident.

Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service Incident Commander Mike Adcock said: “As we said earlier in the week the sequence of events has to be to make the buildings safe first before the removal of rubble begins, so as to ensure the safety of personnel. Due to the instability of adjoining buildings we have some particular work to do today to tackle that issue. We are still looking forward to being able to start removing rubble but cannot yet put a timeframe on this. Fire and police investigators will be working alongside to determine the cause of the explosion.”

A2Dominion focus on affected residents

Oxfordshire County Council’s Emergency Planning team is currently working with A2Dominion to provide alternative accommodation for those who need it, transport and emergency supplies.

David Lingeman, Group Director of Property Services at A2Dominion: “We are continuing to focus our efforts on helping our affected residents, providing as much support as we can.

“At this stage, 19 households are still unable to return to Gibbs Crescent. We have provided emergency accommodation and transport for all those that need it, whilst a small number of residents have made their own arrangements.

“Yesterday, we delivered food packages, emergency cash, toiletries and clothing to all of the residents we could reach who are staying in emergency accommodation.

“Our team will be contacting every resident again today, both those in emergency accommodation and those at Gibbs Crescent, to help with practical day-to-day requirements during this difficult time.

“Furthermore, we are continuing to work on confirming when our displaced residents will be able to return to their homes and making long-term alternative arrangements where required.

“We would like to thank all those who have been helping us to provide this support, including the emergency services, local authorities and various charities.

“We continue to urge any of our residents who require any additional support to contact us.”

There is currently restricted public access to the area in which emergency services are working. However agencies are working on more permanent access for residents to the site.