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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Man burned in gas blast
Edinburgh blast
The blast happened on Tuesday morning
A man has been taken to hospital with serious burns after a gas explosion and fire at a pizza restaurant.

Two other people were also taken to hospital following the incident, which happened after 0900 BST at Mamma's American Pizza Company in Edinburgh's Grassmarket.

Residents were evacuated from their homes after the blast and the area was sealed off as firefighters checked for further gas leaks.

The blast was thought to have been linked to a soldering iron being used by an engineer, who was working in the restauarant.


Fire crews are inside the property trying to retrieve gas cylinders which are apparently leaking

Graham Torrie, fire brigade

The engineer was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with serious burns and was later transferred to St John's Hospital, in Livingston, where his condition was described as stable.

Two women were taken to hospital, including a woman with burns to her legs and a mother and her child were treated at the scene.

A police spokeswoman said staff had been opening the restaurant when the incident happened.

Fire safety officers have been assessing the state of the building but the extent of the damage was not yet clear.

Divisional Officer Graham Torrie, of Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade, said: "We received a call at 9.21am to a restaurant called Mamma's Pizza in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh.

"The report was that there had been a gas explosion in the building."

Gavin Dunlop
Gavin Dunlop: Engineer was injured
Eyewitness, Rachel Fleming, 34, who lives in a third floor flat above the restaurant, said residents around the restaurant had been evacuated.

She said: "I was drying my hair and there was an almighty explosion."

Ms Fleming said an engineer had been in the restaurant servicing fridges when the explosion happened.

"I shouted out of the window, 'do you need the fire brigade', but he said 'no', and I started to smell the burning and then we were all evacuated.

"It was like a bomb or an earthquake so I just started to panic - it all happened so quickly I didn't have time to think."

Repair work

Ms Fleming said she saw staff emerge from the smoke-filled restaurant and they appeared to be suffering from shock.

Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade officer Gavin Dunlop said the cause of the explosion was probably a problem with a hand-held soldering device being used by the engineer.

He said: "There's been a chap working on the fridge's system and there's been an explosion but what caused that I can't yet be 100% sure.

Police/fire officers
An investigation is under way
"There's quite a lot of damage to the central area but it's all low level.

"I know the engineer was in there and a couple of other people.

"Essentially they were walking wounded but it was the engineer who suffered the most."

Mr Dunlop told reporters that the incident could have resulted in more casualties.

"There was a lot of things that saved the day, one of which was the fact that he was working behind a counter in the middle of the room," he said.

Inspector Sandy Acamouic, of Lothian and Borders Police, said five people were in the building when the blast happened.

He said: "I can confirm that the explosion was not caused by a mains leak, it's been a piece of equipment within the kitchen area.

"I cannot speculate as to the reasons behind that because the fire service are carrying out their investigations."

The restaurant's owners declined to comment ahead of an assessment of the premises by their insurers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Isabel Fraser reports
"An engineer was working on a fridge when the blast happened"
See also:

20 Aug 01 | Scotland
Fire death family fled cyclone
04 Aug 01 | Scotland
Fire victims laid to rest
23 Sep 00 | Scotland
Scots ignore life-saving alarms
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