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Police: Oldham Blast Death Is Suspicious
Detectives investigating a massive explosion that killed a toddler in Oldham are treating the death as suspicious.
The boy, named locally as Jamie Heaton and thought to be two years old, died after a suspected gas blast ripped through three terraced houses in the Shaw area.
A man who is not related to the toddler - named by locals as Anthony Partington - is in a critical condition with severe burns.
Rescue workers are still desperately trying to reach a man who is trapped under rubble, and police say another resident is missing.
The blast happened at around 11.15 am destroying one house. Witnesses say two others are wrecked, and another has been seriously damaged.
Dean Nankivell, station manager at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The scene down there is catastrophic. Its just a great big pile of bricks.
"Whatever has caused this has gone with some force. This is looking like a gas explosion.
"Everybody has been accounted for, we are treating it as a search and rescue but leading on to the next phase."
A specialist urban rescue team and a sniffer dog are helping with the search.
National Grid said it had received a report of a smell of gas this morning. The police said that was "one element" currently being investigated.
Witnesses say the explosion was so loud and powerful that it shook other houses on the street.
Waqar Hussain, whose family rent out one of the destroyed properties, lives a few doors away. He said: "I had walked past just a few minutes earlier and gone into my house.
"The explosion was massive. I thought a bomb had gone off. The whole house shook. My mother was crying and when I went out onto the street I couldn't take it in. It was like some weird dream. I just stood looking at the rubble and mess not knowing what to do when the police arrived and moved me away."
Adam Pollard, 21, was at his mother's house just 500 yards away when he heard the explosion.
"It was the biggest bang I have ever heard, all the windows shook, I could see the smoke and came running up towards my flat," he said.
"I got to the street and the three houses that had been there were just rubble, basically. I was worried if someone was trapped. I went running on to the rubble, shouting to see if anyone was injured. I couldn't see anyone and there was no fire, just smoke in the air. There was a weird smell, not of gas, like a burning smell."
Emergency services say they do not know when people will be allowed back into their homes.
Some 80 people have sought refuge at the makeshift help centre at a local school, and Oldham Council is offering temporary accomodation to those who need it.
Police have closed several roads and a cordon has been set up around the area.