Four Dead after Explosion at UK Waste Water Plant

LONDON (AP) -
Emergency services attend to a large explosion at a warehouse in Bristol, England, Thursday Dec. 3, 2020. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Four people died following an explosion in a silo that holds treated biosolids at a waste water treatment plant near the southwest England city of Bristol, police said Thursday.

Chief Inspector Mark Runacres of Avon and Somerset Police told a press briefing that three employees of Wessex Water and one contractor died in the incident, which is not being treated as terror-related. He said a fifth person was injured during the explosion at Avonmouth. His condition is not thought to be life-threatening.

“The fire service led the rescue operation but sadly, despite the best efforts of all those involved, we can confirm there have been four fatalities,” he said.

Runacres would not speculate on the cause of the explosion. He said it took place in a silo holding organic matter from sewage before it “is recycled to land as an organic soil conditioner.”

He said there were no ongoing public safety concerns.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “our hearts go out” to the victims of the tragedy and their families.

“Deeply saddened to learn that four people have lost their lives in the water works explosion in Avonmouth,” he said on Twitter.

Wessex Water chief executive Colin Skellett said he was “devastated” by the incident, and the company is working to understand what happened and why.

Sean Nolan, who witnessed the aftermath of the explosion, said he had heard a “boom and echo” but believed it to have been a vehicle collision.

The Avon Fire and Rescue Service was alerted at 11:22 a.m. to the “very challenging” incident in the industrial area of Avonmouth located near Bristol, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) west of London. Six fire engines and rescue dogs were soon on scene.

“Luckily our local fire station is not too far from here so we had crews in attendance very, very quickly and they were able to gain an element of situational awareness,” said Luke Gazzard from Avon Fire and Rescue Service.