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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Explosion like an 'earthquake'
By Stephanie Todd
BBC News Online Scotland

Building rubble
Very little of the original building remained intact after the blast
The scene following a major explosion in Glasgow was compared to an earthquake by firefighters battling to free those trapped beneath the rubble.

Only a corner of the four-storey Stockline Plastics factory building remained standing, with the rest an unrecognisable pile of bricks, wood and dust following the incident.

Residents of nearby flats looked on in shock and alarm as streams of fire engines, police cars, motorbikes and ambulances flooded their quiet streets and cul-de-sacs surrounding the remnants of the Stockline premises.

Firefighters kept in regular contact with several "pockets" of people trapped beneath the rubble as they carefully picked their way through the debris trying to reach them.

Many of those trapped were believed to have been in offices above the factory floor when the building gave way under the force of the explosion.

Small mobile forklift trucks were brought to the scene by Strathclyde Fire Brigade in an attempt to aid the rescue effort.

Bottle water arrives
Firefighters working in warm, dusty conditions were given bottled water
Crates full of bottled water were also brought for firefighters working tirelessly in warm, dusty conditions.

Due to the warm temperatures in Glasgow many firefighters at the scene were reported to be suffering from heat exhaustion.

The car park of the nearby Firhill Sports Complex was transformed into a base for the fire brigade Major Incident Mobile Unit, doubling as a landing pad for the force's mini-helicopter which was quickly on the scene.

A stream of ambulances were on stand-by in a supermarket car park neighbouring the factory, ready to treat any casualties brought out from under the rubble and transport them to hospital.

'Terror and shock'

Scottish Ambulance mobile "treatment tents" were erected by paramedics to treat those who escaped the explosion with minor injuries.

The streets surrounding the area were closed off and a police cordon was set up around the perimeter of the factory, next to a small shopping centre.

Hundreds of people had gathered in the streets to witness the commotion and many were visibly distressed by the scene.

Fire engines
Fire engines and ambulances spilled into surrounding streets
From a distance firefighters could be seen sifting through the wreckage, pulling back bricks, slabs of concrete, bits of wood, in a bid to reach those believed to be trapped.

Rescuers forecast the operation, which has been declared a major incident, could take as long as 48 hours.

Andrew Johnston, 29, whose mother works at the factory, said he feared for her life when he heard about the explosion.

"I heard about it on the radio and tried to call her but I couldn't get through to anyone so I rushed down here.

"My first thought was terror, shock... the not knowing if my mum was okay was horrible.

Close knit community

"When I got here, I spoke to a girl I knew worked with my mum and she pointed my mum out in the crowd of people. I just ran over to her and hugged her, the relief was unreal."

The local community centre yards from the site of the explosion has been set up as a "designated emergency centre", acting as an information point for friends and relatives of those who had been working inside the factory.

Police officers, social workers and representatives from the city council were all on hand offering support and advice to local people.

Fire investigation unit
An investigation into the cause of the explosion is already under way

Gary Gentels, facilities manager at the centre, said: "Everyone who's coming in is very shocked and some are very upset. The relatives will be waiting here until we get some further news.

"A lot of the people in the factory probably live locally. It is a very close knit community and this will hit pretty hard."

According to NHS Greater Glasgow, those wounded in the explosion were being taken to the Western Infirmary, the Southern General, the Royal Infirmary and Victoria Infirmary.

Those described as "walking wounded" were being treated at Stobhill Accident and Emergency.

A "rest centre" was set up by the British Red Cross at the nearby Woodside health clinic with mental health nurses there to offer support.

Alan Dorn, Emergency Planning Officer at NHS Greater Glasgow, said that Glasgow is unique in having a large number of hospitals.

Casualties were sent to the nearest hospital - the Western Infirmary - and two medical emergency teams were scrambled from the hospitals furthest away.

According to Mr Dorn, this makes sure all hospitals have maximum staffing levels.


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