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Gas explosion injures three in Leicester

The semi-detached property in Birstall, Leicester, was completely destroyed in the blast at 7.30 thi..

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  • The semi-detached property in Birstall, Leicester, was completely destroyed in the blast at 7.30 this morning
  • Neighbours reported finding an unconscious elderly man with cuts to his head amongst the rubble
  • Photos from the scene show debris strewn across the street, windows blown out and doors hanging off hinges

By Joe Sheppard For Mailonline

Published: 04:35 EST, 11 December 2017 | Updated: 09:36 EST, 11 December 2017

Three people have been hurt after a house was blown to pieces by an early morning gas explosion that was so fierce it also damaged six neighbouring properties.

An elderly man was dramatically pulled alive from the rubble by rescuers, while the bedroom of a house next door was ripped away by the blast, injuring the couple living there.

Jeanette Jasper, 79, is said to be in a serious condition in a major trauma centre in Coventry after she was crushed by a wall as she lay in her bed. Her husband John, 80, who was in the kitchen at the time of the explosion, has also been hospitalised.

Neighbours reported hearing a 'supersonic bang' at around 7.30am when the semi-detached property in Leicester exploded.

Pictures from the site, in the Birstall area of the city, reveal debris strewn across the street, windows blown out and door frames hanging off their hinges.

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Three people have been hurt after a house was blown to pieces by an early morning gas explosion that was so fierce it also damaged six neighbouring properties

Three people have been hurt after a house was blown to pieces by an early morning gas explosion that was so fierce it also damaged six neighbouring properties

Neighbours reported hearing an 'almighty bang' at around 7.30am when the semi-detached property explodedNeighbours reported hearing an 'almighty bang' at around 7.30am when the semi-detached property exploded

Neighbours reported hearing an 'almighty bang' at around 7.30am when the semi-detached property exploded

Emergency services survey the scene of destruction amid the snow and ice this morning, with three people receiving injuriesEmergency services survey the scene of destruction amid the snow and ice this morning, with three people receiving injuries

Emergency services survey the scene of destruction amid the snow and ice this morning, with three people receiving injuries

The site as it appeared before the explosion. The property on the right is said to be owned by retired couple John and Janette JasperThe site as it appeared before the explosion. The property on the right is said to be owned by retired couple John and Janette Jasper

The site as it appeared before the explosion. The property on the right is said to be owned by retired couple John and Janette Jasper

An aerial photograph shows the devastation caused to a home in Leicester after an explosion in the early hours of todayAn aerial photograph shows the devastation caused to a home in Leicester after an explosion in the early hours of today

An aerial photograph shows the devastation caused to a home in Leicester after an explosion in the early hours of today

An aerial view of the site shows the shocking state of destruction caused by the explosion in Leicester this morningAn aerial view of the site shows the shocking state of destruction caused by the explosion in Leicester this morning

An aerial view of the site shows the shocking state of destruction caused by the explosion in Leicester this morning

An elderly man was dramatically pulled alive from the rubble by rescuers, while the bedroom of a house next door was said to have been ripped away by the blastAn elderly man was dramatically pulled alive from the rubble by rescuers, while the bedroom of a house next door was said to have been ripped away by the blast

An elderly man was dramatically pulled alive from the rubble by rescuers, while the bedroom of a house next door was said to have been ripped away by the blast

Two people were airlifted to hospital, one of whom was taken to a major trauma centre in a serious condition, while almost 100 homes have been left without power and several forced to be evacuatedTwo people were airlifted to hospital, one of whom was taken to a major trauma centre in a serious condition, while almost 100 homes have been left without power and several forced to be evacuated

Two people were airlifted to hospital, one of whom was taken to a major trauma centre in a serious condition, while almost 100 homes have been left without power and several forced to be evacuated

The cause of the explosion has not been identified though residents on the street said some reported smelling gas yesterdayThe cause of the explosion has not been identified though residents on the street said some reported smelling gas yesterdayThe cause of the explosion has not been identified though residents on the street said some reported smelling gas yesterdayThe cause of the explosion has not been identified though residents on the street said some reported smelling gas yesterday

The cause of the explosion has not been identified though residents on the street said some reported smelling gas yesterday

 Gas distribution company Cadent said it currently has engineers on site but added that it was 'too early to speculate on the cause' of the explosion Gas distribution company Cadent said it currently has engineers on site but added that it was 'too early to speculate on the cause' of the explosion

Gas distribution company Cadent said it currently has engineers on site but added that it was 'too early to speculate on the cause' of the explosion

John Kettringham was one of the first on the scene after hearing the explosion.

He said: 'We found one old chap buried in the rubble. He had bad head lacerations, and was unconscious, with a flight of stairs on top of him, but he was still breathing. It looks like it was a gas explosion.'

Tony Timson, 66, who lives several doors down from the house, said: 'I heard a gigantic explosion and looked out of the house to see debris flying through the air. The damage was catastrophic.

'As I came outside a window cleaner was on his way to work. He had stopped and was running up the road to help.

'Outside the house he said he could hear someone shouting that they were trapped, and started trying to dig him out when the fire service arrived.

'The firefighters immediately told everyone to back off and set up a cordon.. It was impressive how quickly they arrived.'

Newspaper deliveryman, Liam Owen, 34, described how he was working his round on the road when the building exploded.

He said: 'It felt like someone pushed me in the back. I thought, 'What was that?'

'There was a flash of light and bits were flying through the air. I've never experienced anything like it. Right now I'm just not really thinking about it. If I'd been a bit earlier I could have been hurt.'

Emergency services attend the scene of the explosion, which completely destroyed a house, in Birstall, Leicester this morningEmergency services attend the scene of the explosion, which completely destroyed a house, in Birstall, Leicester this morning

Emergency services attend the scene of the explosion, which completely destroyed a house, in Birstall, Leicester this morning

The semi-detached property has fallen down completely while the house next door has partially collapsedThe semi-detached property has fallen down completely while the house next door has partially collapsed

The semi-detached property has fallen down completely while the house next door has partially collapsed

Neighbours reported hearing an 'almighty blast' and one man said an elderly man was pulled out of the rubbleNeighbours reported hearing an 'almighty blast' and one man said an elderly man was pulled out of the rubble

Neighbours reported hearing an 'almighty blast' and one man said an elderly man was pulled out of the rubble

Another neighbour, whose back garden overlooks the property, said: 'You can see from here there is hardly any house left. All the roof tiles in the surrounding houses are in a mess too.

'I was sat with my son-in-law enjoying a cup of tea at 7:30 this morning when we saw a giant fireball go up and a huge boom shook the house.

'The noise was tremendous. Now I’ve seen the front of it, it looks more like a bombed out house you would see in a war zone, not in Leicester.'

Mr Jasper's brother Bernard, who lives nearby, said: 'My brother was downstairs making a cup of tea at the time and Janet was in bed upstairs.

'The dividing wall between the two properties collapsed on top of her basically crushing her in bed.

'She was airlifted to hospital in Coventry. Her condition is not good. We are all praying they are okay.

'John is conscious and his son Michael is with him. Their other son Anthony is with Janet.'

A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, described the Jaspers as a 'lovely couple' and said they had been taken to different hospitals.

The person added: 'I last saw them two weeks ago and they were looking forward to Christmas. We always stopped for a chat. Apparently Mrs Jasper is in a bad way in hospital.

'Everyone is very shocked about what happened. It's a freak thing to happen. The explosion didn't happen in their house but they were badly injured.'

Residents in surrounding properties have been evacuated as emergency services attend the sceneResidents in surrounding properties have been evacuated as emergency services attend the scene

Residents in surrounding properties have been evacuated as emergency services attend the scene

Damage caused to neighbouring houses include broken doors and smashed windowsDamage caused to neighbouring houses include broken doors and smashed windows

Damage caused to neighbouring houses include broken doors and smashed windows

The local borough council has set up temporary emergency accommodation for evacuated residents at Birstall Village HallThe local borough council has set up temporary emergency accommodation for evacuated residents at Birstall Village Hall

The local borough council has set up temporary emergency accommodation for evacuated residents at Birstall Village Hall

One of the injured has been taken to Queen's Medical Hospital in Nottingham. Pictured: Police and fire crews at the sceneOne of the injured has been taken to Queen's Medical Hospital in Nottingham. Pictured: Police and fire crews at the scene

One of the injured has been taken to Queen's Medical Hospital in Nottingham. Pictured: Police and fire crews at the scene

A fourth person is said to be missing following the blast. Rescue teams are searching the areaA fourth person is said to be missing following the blast. Rescue teams are searching the area

A fourth person is said to be missing following the blast. Rescue teams are searching the area

Another neighbour, Leah Russell, said: 'I believe that the couple who lived in the attached house have also been lifted to separate hospitals. It was an older couple, and I heard they said they smelled gas yesterday and even called someone out – it's such a shame to think this could have been avoided.'

Ms Russell added that the man living in the exploded property had been due to move out the following week.

'I think he lived there alone,' she said.

The cause of the explosion has not been identified though residents on the street said some reported smelling gas yesterday.

Cadent Gas said it currently has engineers on site but added that it was 'too early to speculate on the cause'.

A spokesman for East Midlands Ambulance Service said: 'One patient has been taken by air ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, one patient has been taken by air ambulance to the Major Trauma Centre in Coventry, and one patient is due to be taken by ambulance to the Leicester Royal Infirmary.'

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that everyone had been accounted for after it was initially feared that a fourth person was missing following the blast.

Leicestershire Police said in a statement: 'Investigations in to the cause of the damage are in their very early stages.

'Allington Drive is currently closed and is likely to remain so for a number of hours while enquiries are carried out.'

Nearly 100 houses in the area have had their power turned off as a precaution, while emergency services search the scene.

A spokesman for Western Power Distributon told the Mecury: 'We have had to disconnect the electricity mains for safety reasons, which means there are about 95 properties in the area which will be without power for the rest of the morning.'

Allington Drive, where the explosions took place, has been closed off as police investigate the cause of the explosionAllington Drive, where the explosions took place, has been closed off as police investigate the cause of the explosion

Allington Drive, where the explosions took place, has been closed off as police investigate the cause of the explosion

Quentin Woodhouse, 61, who lives in Birstall, said: 'My mum lives opposite. She's 91. Her front door and windows all blew in.

'She was very lucky not to be hurt. She just said it was a very loud bang, no flames as such.

'And when she came outside it looked pretty much as it does now, with the roof blown off.'

Mr Kettringham added: 'I was woken up by the bang and pulled my clothes on and ran to do what I could to help.

'The explosion threw bits of wood into the windows of the houses opposite, and all the cars have smashed windows.'

Charnwood Borough Councillor Roy Rollings said that Birstall Village Hall had been set up for residents in need of emergency accommodation.

A spokesman for the local authority said: 'We will be ensuring residents' welfare is looked after and have officers on the scene, including from our building control team.'

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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative

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In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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