Explosion victims call for stop to metal theft

Yvette Cooper meeting residents of Rhodes Street, Hightown who had their homes destroyed in a massive explosion.'Deborah Newsome
Yvette Cooper meeting residents of Rhodes Street, Hightown who had their homes destroyed in a massive explosion.'Deborah Newsome
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HORRIFIED residents whose homes were destroyed in a gas blast caused by metal thieves joined calls for more to be done to tackle the problem.

Householders on Rhodes Street, in Hightown, Castleford, met Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper at the scene of last year’s blasts – which are believed to have been sparked by vandals stealing cable.

The residents and MP united to call for changes in the law to stop criminals cashing in on stolen metal.

Resident Alan Johnson, 55, who had to be rescued from his first floor window, said: “It’s ridiculous that somebody can try and make a few pounds and cause this damage.

“Ten people could have been killed for what – £50?”

Firefighters from Castleford, Pontefract and Normanton were called to reports of a string of “small fires” on the street on July 8 last year.

Crews quickly realised the danger of the situation and evacuated 40 residents just minutes before a massive gas explosion ripped through the row of terraces.

Investigations revealed the blast was caused after a piece of cable was cut from an overhead line.

This affected the earthing of the electrical network in the area and resulted in some unusual electrical activity – affecting some of the gas pipes in the properties.

Three of the homes have been torn down and will need to be completely rebuilt, two need extensive repairs and a sixth was also damaged in the explosion.

After meeting the residents, who hope to move back into their homes later this year, Ms Cooper called for the government to do more to tackle cable thefts.

She added: “For the Rhodes Street families, metal theft has been a complete nightmare – destroying their homes and even putting people’s lives at risk.

“I’m urging the government to take urgent action to deal with this growing epidemic which is hitting households, commuters, churches and businesses.

“It’s still far too easy to sell stolen metal, yet the government is dragging its feet.

“The police need much stronger powers to crack down on scrap yards that are dealing in stolen metal.

“I proposed measures to do that but the government voted against them in parliament.

“Ministers need to take this more seriously and act urgently for the sake of people in Rhodes Street and across Yorkshire.”