'He could have been blown out of the window': Residents shock after suspected gas blast leaves one man in hospital and flats evacuated
Residents of a block of flats have spoken of their shock after a suspected gas explosion blew out a chunk of wall.
Fire crews and paramedics were called to Collingwood Court in Washington, at around midday following reports of a blast.
The North East Ambulance Service said one person had been taken to the Sunderland Royal Hospital, while the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said the injuries were not thought to be serious.
The suspected gas explosion punched a hole in the third floor of a four-storey block of flats.It blew out bricks and a window, leaving the sitting room exposed.
Specialist gas engineers were at the scene, as well as fire crews and police.
One resident said a man was in the flat at the time of the explosion, and he was lucky not to have been blown out of the hole it left.
The witness, who gave his name as Eddie, was visiting a friend in the block just two doors away when it happened.
He said: "I didn't hear anything but you could feel it through the floor when the wall hit the ground and I saw the big hole.
"I've never seen anything like it. The guy was inside but he is fine.
"He could have been blown out of the window."
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The flats were evacuated and residents have not been told when it will be safe for them to return.
A pile of fallen masonry could be seen in the garden of the ground floor flat below the blast.
Police have cordoned off the flats and were controlling access to the properties.
The fire service said the damage will now be assessed by structural engineers.
Meanwhile, kindhearted caretakers showed their community spirit by offering tea, coffee and biscuits to those who were evacuated.
One resident, a 58-year-old Nissan worker, said: "I was asleep because I'd just come back off night shift and I heard a crash and a bang.
"I saw the fire brigade turn up at the front and then I saw all the mess. I thought something had fallen down.
"The damage has caused quite a mess."
Another resident, a 47-year-old man, added: "I was just sat in the house watching TV and all I heard was this big bang. I thought it was a balcony collapsing into the garden.
"I came out and saw what had happened. It had all come down, it's just a good job the kids were at school and not playing outside at the time.
"The fire brigade came and told us all to get out and get away from the area."