Gas explosion levels Hague building; Several rescued in search for survivors

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Crime scene (Photo: Politie). (Crime scene (Photo: Politie))

12:05 a.m., Monday, 28 January 2018: Rescue workers managed to free a 28-year-old man who had been trapped for nearly eight hours. He was transported to an area hospital. The man is the fourth person saved from the the rubble, and the eighth victim hospitalized in the incident.

At least nine people were injured in a natural gas explosion at a housing block in The Hague, the fire department said. Emergency crews saved three people from the resultant building collapse, but there was still one person trapped that rescuers knew about.

By 6:50 p.m., the fire department personnel made contact with the trapped person. A plan was being crafted to safely rescue the victim, a 28-year-old man, the fire department confirmed to several media outlets.

"Because of the instability of the [building], this must be done very carefully," the fire department said in a statement, alluding to the complicated because of the precarious state of the buildings there. The entire property will be searched again, probably with rescue dogs, after the man is removed from the rubble. "So far, there are no signs that there are more people to be found under the rubble."

Three of the nine people injured were found in the debris, the fire department said. Seven of the injured people were taken to various hospitals.

The blast took place around 4:15 p.m., and was caused by natural gas. One person speaking to NOS claimed to be a local resident who said a gas smell had been present in the building for several days. It was reported, but no action was taken, the anonymous witness said.

The explosion rocked the neighborhood, with people up and down the street telling the Telegraaf that they could feel the ground shake. It led to a partial building collapse with several others evacuated because of structural instability. Debris cascaded down onto the Jan van der Heijdenstraat, covering several cars.

Den Haag mayor Pauline Krikke said much was still unclear about the situation, in a statement released at about 6:20 p.m. "The impact of the blast is enormous. The emergency services are now working hard to provide the necessary care," she said. In total, 20 homes were evacuated, and about 30 people were given shelter in a local hotel.

"Hopefully, things will become clearer in the coming hours."

Specialists from the Netherlands' Urban Search and Rescue Team were providing four dog handlers to help investigate the scene. "They are searching for survivors in cooperation with the Specialist Technical Assistance Teams (STH) of the fire service. A collaboration that was practiced last year and is now being applied in practice," the USAR said in a statement.

Krikke was working with emergency services leadership from a command center within the police facility De Yp. "We are doing everything to inform you as best as possible," Krikke stated.

First responders were dispatched to the scene, and the emergency was raised to a Grip 1 incident. This plan calls for a command post to be established at the scene, and the emergency services workers to coordinate under a single leader.

It was elevated to a Grip 2 no later than 5:25 p.m. This brings in more regional personnel and emergency services management, with the mayor of the affected municipality and their top staff being kept in the loop of all undertaken efforts.

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