A SUSPECTED burglar has been arrested in connection with a gas blast that rocked a Wearside street and left a man injured.
The 27-year-old was questioned by police after the explosion at a ground-floor flat in Halidon Road, Hill View, Sunderland.
Police are now understood to be pursuing a line of inquiry which suggests the property may have been burgled and damaged prior to the blast.
The upstairs flat and three neighbouring properties were also seriously damaged in the incident.
A 45-year-old householder was rushed to hospital after he suffered injuries to his face and hands.
It is understood he had been entering the property when he lit a cigarette, sparking the explosion.
He is currently undergoing treatment at a specialist burns unit.
Today, a spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said investigations were continuing into the cause of the blast, despite the arrest.
“A 27-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of burglary and has been released on police bail,” she said.
The Echo reported how the casualty was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital after the explosion in the early hours of Thursday.
He was later transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital for specialist treatment.
His condition is not thought to be life-threatening.
Engineers have visited the scene to assess the structural safety of the damaged properties, with some facing demolition.
Neighbouring flats and houses and two cars were hit by the blast.
A conservatory in nearby Helvellyn Road also collapsed after its windows and doors were blown out.
Masonry and shattered glass was strewn across gardens and a front door was thrown more than 15ft across the road.
William Robson, 54, who lives a few doors away, said: “I heard a blast, like a bomb going off. I came rushing out and the whole street was out. The man was walking around the street dazed and in shock, with burns to his legs and head.
“He is really lucky to be alive.”
Housing firm Gentoo, which owns the damaged properties, will carry out repairs where possible once investigators have completed their probe.
Ian Porter, managing director of Gentoo, said: “We are unable to provide details at this stage as the incident is subject to a police investigation.
“However, due to structural damage caused by the gas explosion some of the properties will need to be demolished.”