Man dies after explosion at former petrol station in north London

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A man in his 50s has died after an explosion on a building site in north London that used to be the location of a petrol station.

The man, believed to be a workman at the site on Swain’s Lane, Highgate, was taken to the Royal London hospital, east London’s main trauma centre, but doctors were unable to save him.

It is understood that the site contains a large underground petrol tank, but it is not known whether this was the source of the explosion. Firefighters attended, although the blast did not start a fire. There have been no arrests.

A spokeswoman for London’s Air Ambulance said one of its craft had been dispatched to the scene at 2.11pm after reports of an industrial accident. After being treated by the doctor and paramedic from the air ambulance the patient was then taken away by the London ambulance service, she said.

People nearby reported feeling the ground shake when the explosion happened just after 2pm. Tess Uys, a pianist who lives opposite the site, told the Camden New Journal: “It made my floorboards vibrate. It was terribly loud, a huge, huge explosion. All the shopkeepers came rushing out to see if they could help, and the police and ambulance were here immediately.”

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The 1930s terrace, on the site of a former shopping parade, is due to be replaced by eight new shops and 12 houses. Owners Noble House were aware of safety concerns but had claimed to residents there were “no indications of hazardous materials”.

A report had also “indicated ways to deal safely with the underground tanks” developers said.  Highgate councillor and Green London Assembly Member Sian Berry told the BBC that builders had been due to remove petrol tanks from the site this week.

She said: “It’s absolutely shocking. I was there last Friday and saw a big tank that used to store petrol. The first stage of construction was taking these tanks away.”  A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said: “We were called just after 2pm to reports of an explosion at an address in Swain’s Lane, N6. London’s air ambulance attended and took a man aged in his 50s to an east London hospital. Unfortunately he has since passed away. His next of kin have been made aware.

“There have been no arrests and inquiries continue.”

The Health and Safety Executive confirmed it had been informed and was in communication with the emergency services.

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