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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 December 2005, 14:24 GMT
'It's a miracle I survived'
Black smoke and flames coming from depot

Part-time security guard Raheel Ashraf still can't believe he is alive.

He escaped the Hertfordshire fuel depot explosions with just a few scratches, despite being on the second floor of an adjacent building that was devastated in the blasts.

As he was doing final checks around the Fujifilm offices where he works nights, he was thrown into the air by a "humungous explosion", he said.

"I opened my eyes and there was nothing left of the building. I was crunched into a ball, looking around, wondering if I was asleep.

"All the walls, everything, was just shattered. There was no light in there but I could see the sky."

It was awful, it was like we were in hell

"All I could hear was a long thundery sound. I had no idea what was happening," he added.

"It was a miracle, I was just standing there, with hardly a scratch on me."

Speaking from his home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, he said his only chance of escape was to jump around 15ft out of the blown-out windows to the car park below, where his own vehicle was buried under rubble.


"I was the only one in the building and I was stuck up there, I thought 'no one's going to come up here for me' and I thought there might be more blasts to follow.

"Luckily there was a lot of gravel and bricks and concrete there which had raised the car park, I jumped down and crawled my way out."

"I was trying to get away from the building as quickly as possible, I was falling down on my knees with the shock."

Mr Ashraf had been checking the building an hour before he was due to finish his shift, when he smelled fumes, said the 26-year-old, who works every Friday and Saturday night at the firm.

"It was really bad, I had popped my head outside and smelled it there too, then it was difficult to tell if the smell was coming from inside or outside the building."

You're hoping it's a nightmare and you're going to wake up out of it

Within seconds he was felled by the force of the explosion.

After he escaped two men from a nearby firm came to his aid and took him to their cabin, he said.

"It was awful, it was like we were in hell. The flames were 200ft high. We could see them growing."

As Hemel Hempstead hospital was so busy with casualties he returned to his home town - from where he could still see the smoke from the blasts - to seek medical treatment.

"The ambulance workers told me I should be checked as I was knocked unconscious for a few seconds."

His next priority is to get to grips with the remarkable escape he had from an explosion so catastrophic it was heard more than 100 miles away.

"One minute everything is fine, the next minute everything just crumbled, and you really don't know what's happened, what's going to happen and you just try, you're hoping it's a nightmare and you're going to wake up out of it."

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