A HUGE explosion in a suspected ‘cannabis factory’ has ripped through a block of flats in Hornchurch and left five people in hospital.
Ten fire engines and more than 70 firefighters are at the scene with dozens of people evacuated from their homes after the blaze quickly spread.
Police, fire and ambulance crews have raced to the scene of the blast at a ground floor property in Ardleigh Green Road. The ambulance service said it has treated four patients at the scene and taken them all to hospital.
An eyewitness said the front of the flats had been “blown out” across the road
Other eyewitnesses described ‘carnage’ after the explosion at a block of flats in Ardleigh Green Road, Hornchurch with building’s shaking and “flames billowing” from the scene.
Reports on Twitter said debris from the blast was “scattered across the A127” after “window frames were blown 70 feet”.
A fire service spokesman said the incident took place in a three-storey block and 72 firefighteres were called to the scene.
The London ambulance service confirmed they “treated four patients” who have all been taken to hospital.
It is understood a fifth person admitted themselves to hospital.
One eyewitness – who did not want to be named – told Essex Live: “Allegedly there was a cannabis factory on the ground floor. One chap had two gas canisters that somehow caught fire.
“The fire brigade were called and in ten minutes there were loads here. It looks like he lost control of it.
“The window frames were blown 70 feet.”
The Met declined to comment on the claims and said it ‘would not speculate’ on the cause.
Witness Jason Smedley, 46, was in his office at the time of the explosion.
He said: “We felt the whole building shake,” adding that he could soon see “flames billowing”.
Mr Smedley said the front of the flats had been “blown out” across the road.
He added: “We pulled people back and told them to get out of the way.
“Unfortunately there was a woman and her daughter, that were in the flat above, that heard the explosion, ran out, and we brought them back … had just their dressing gowns on, so we just gave them tea and blankets. They’ve got nowhere to live tonight.”
Mr Smedley wrote on Facebook: “Carnage!! Never witnessed anything like that before. We all heard a massive explosion.. ran round to see the front of the house across the a127! Pray that no one was in the flats. Stomach churning!!”
Speaking to MailOnline, he added: “There were people screaming and crying everywhere.”
Warren Woodroof, 31, who lives in the flats, said: “There was a big bang overhead. The neighbour was saying ‘get the kids out.’
“I ran out and there was smoke in the corridor. I went out with no socks on, and it was freezing cold.
“When we got out the fire was raging.”
A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “Ten fire engines and 72 firefighters and officers are dealing with a fire and suspected explosion at a block of flats on A127 South Arterial Road, near Harold Hill, at the junction of Ardleigh Green Road.
“Part of a ground floor flat is alight.
“The Brigade was called at 5.14pm. Fire crews from Harold Hill and surrounding fire stations are at the scene.
“The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.”
A police spokesman said: “Police were called at 17:14hrs on Monday, 23 January to reports of an explosion at a block of flats in Ardleigh Green Road. Hornchurch.
“Officers, the London Fire Brigade and the London Ambulance Service are currently at the scene.
“A number of people have sustained injuries.”
The police spokesman added: “At this early stage officers are unable to confirm the cause of the explosion but enquires are underway.
“Residents are in the process of being evacuated from the building. The Local Authority has been informed.
“Local road closures are in place. Motorists and pedestrians are advised to avoid the area.”
A London Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “We were called just before 5.15pm to reports of an incident at Southend Arterial Road, Hornchurch.
“We sent a number of resources to the scene including three ambulance crews, our Hazardous Area Response Team, a single responder in a car and a duty manager. The first of our medics arrived in under five minutes.
“We have now treated four patients at the scene and taken them all to hospital.
“We remain on scene.”
Source: The Sun