Gorleston explosion fear causes evacuation

A 200m exclusion zone was placed around an offshore company after fire broke out – threatening to ignite cylinders of gas.

Firefighters imposed the exclusion zone on Tuesday morning around the premises of CLS Offshore in Malthouse Lane, Gorleston, after the fire came perilously close to igniting the cylinder of highly-flammable acetylene gas in the company’s warehouse.

Staff were evacuated from CLS Offshore, neighbouring businesses and the offices of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s planning department, bringing the total number of evacuees to 150.

Residents in Ferry Hill were also asked by police if they wanted to leave their homes, though they were not thought to be in danger.

Initially, firefighters thought the exclusion zone, closing off Malthouse Lane shortly after 10am, might have to be in place for 24 hours, but the incident had been dealt with by 2pm.

Ferry Hill resident Michael Russell, 75, said when the police asked him if he wanted to leave he decided to pop out and get some food for lunch.

He added: “The police officer suggested I go out for the day if necessary, in case there was an explosion there.

Most Read

“Obviously if there had been an explosion I would not have known what the hell it was, really.

“I doubt if it would have caused any problems this far up the hill, but obviously the police were doing their duty and keeping people informed of developments.”

His near-neighbour, Ruth Harrison, 40, said her husband Carl, 45, was at their home, though she had gone out just as the incident was breaking to take their children, Beth, nine and Jamie, five, swimming at the Marina Centre in Yarmouth.

A police officer called on her partner, a piano tuner, while he was working in an outbuilding at their home and told him Malthouse Lane had been cordoned off and people returning to their homes were not being allowed back in. However, Mr Harrison decided to stay.

Mrs Harrison said: “I think he was more concerned because he could not get hold of me as I had taken the children swimming.”

Dean Minns, the borough council’s development control manager, said an evacuation procedure was already in place for the 75 staff at the Malthouse Lane office, who were able to carry on working at the Town Hall.

The fire crews called the council’s emergency planning manager Jan Davis, who, in turn, phoned Mr Minns, saying they needed to evacuate.

He said: “We went to the Town Hall and the Assembly Rooms and sorted out what we were going to do in terms of the computers and phones.

“We can access messages left on our phones from the Town Hall.”

The cordon was lifted after a gas expert examined the cylinder and determined that only the cables and external gas fittings were damaged.