‘No signs of life’ as Didcot power station search continues following explosion


Emergency crews searching for three missing people after part of a power station collapsed said they ‘haven’t picked up any clear signs of life’ overnight.

One person was killed and five others are in hospital after a concrete and steel building at the derelict Didcot A site in south Oxfordshire came down at around 4pm yesterday while it was being prepared for demolition.

A further 50 people were treated for dust inhalation as emergency crews with sniffer dogs worked into the night searching for the missing.

The operation could take ‘several days’, authorities warned.

Witness David Cooke, whose company, Thames Cryogenics, has a building overlooking the power station, said: ‘Our building shook and as we looked out of the window. The end of the main turbine hall collapsed in a huge pile of dust.

The scene at Didcot Power Station, Oxfordshire (Picture: PA)

The scene at Didcot Power Station, Oxfordshire, after one person died and a major search operation was under way for three others after a building collapsed at the power station. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 24, 2016. Five people are being treated in hospital after the concrete and steel structure at the derelict Didcot A site in south Oxfordshire came down while it was being prepared for demolition. See PA story POLICE Didcot. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

One person died and a major search operation was under way for three others after a building collapsed at the power station (Picture: PA)

‘It totally obscured the towers and must have drifted across the roads and main rail line. What’s left looks a tangled mess. The dust was hanging over the area for five to 10 minutes.’

Oxfordshire Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Furlong said: ‘It is still a rescue operation at the moment. We have three dog teams on site working overnight, but we haven’t picked up any clear signs of life.

‘We are continuing to search and locate the missing persons and we are working hard with the other agencies.’

Mr Furlong said the operation was being hampered because of safety concerns. He said: ‘This is a very difficult situation with a very unstable structure. The safety of emergency service personnel has to remain our priority, while recognising how hard this must be for families waiting for news of loved ones overnight. Our sympathies are with them, and the family of the person who died here yesterday.

Emergency services are present at Didcot power station this evening (Tuesday) after part of the power station collapsed, killing one person. February 23 2016.

Emergency services worked through the night to search for those missing following the explosion (Picture: SWNS)

Part of a collapsed building is illuminated by the emergency services as they work at the decommissioned Didcot A power station in central England, February 23, 2016. At least one person was killed and three were reported missing after  part of a building collapsed at the disused power plant local fire services said.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Authorities said there was no ‘signs of life’ detected overnight (Picture: Reuters)

MORE: Woman ‘raped in her hospital bed just hours after giving birth’

‘An expert from Cheshire with similar experience is due on site today to advise on the search. The police will be taking over control of the site as part of ongoing investigation but we are continuing working with fire services from Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and the West Midlands, and this work may continue for several days.’

A 100m cordon has been placed around the scene as the rescue operation continues.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Nathan Travis added: ‘The building is potentially 10 storeys high; half of that building has collapsed, so you have got a rubble pile which is approximately 20 to 30 feet deep at the moment.

Asked about the chances of finding those missing alive, he replied: ‘At the moment I can’t give you any details on that but it is a substantial collapse of a building.’

Footage from the scene showed a significant chunk of a building in the defunct Didcot A site has collapsed, with a large amount of debris on the ground.

epa05177398 Part of the damaged building is visible at Didcot Power Station, Didcot, Oxfordshire, Britain, 23 February 2016. At least one person died after a building collapsed, following a possible explosion at the power station in southern Britain on 23 February, police and local media said.  EPA/HANNAH MCKAY

Part of the damaged building is visible at Didcot Power Station (Picture: EPA)

Nearby residents have been asked to consider whether they require emergency hospital care after a major incident was declared. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust advised: ‘We are grateful to members of the public for avoiding attending our Emergency Department for anything other than serious or life-threatening emergencies.’

MP for Didcot, Conservative Ed Vaizey thanked emergency services for their efforts.

Didcot A opened in 1970 as a coal-fired power station and was later converted so it could also generate power from natural gas. It ceased generation in March 2013 and hundreds gathered to watch when three of its enormous cooling towers were blown up in July 2014 after dominating the town’s skyline for more than four decades.

The incident comes 16 months after a major fire struck a cooling tower at Didcot B in October 2014. The blaze affected 50% of the station output – supplying a million homes.

Taken with permission from the Twitter account of smoke rising from  Didcot power station in Oxfordshire where a major incident has been declared and a fatality reported after a building collapse. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 23, 2016. See PA story POLICE Didcot. Photo credit should read: Blaine Morris-Smith/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

A witness photo of Didcot power station during the blast (Picture: PA)

MORE: How to stop Netflix, Spotify and YouTube from using all of your data allowance