© Jonas Roosens/Belga

The last person missing since the explosion in Wilrijk on Sunday has been found dead, Antwerp fire brigade said. The victim was a woman aged 87 years.

The cause of the explosion, in which three other people were injured, is still unknown. Forensic investigators are working at the scene, and a magistrate from the Antwerp prosecutor’s office has made a preliminary visit.

Three buildings, two houses and an apartment block, were completely destroyed in the blast, and three other nearby buildings suffered material damage. The dead woman, recently widowed, had to be dug out from under the rubble of her home. Other homes in the vicinity suffered broken windows and damage to doors and roofs, but in most cases residents have been allowed to return home. One of the people injured has already left hospital.

This morning the Royal palace sent a message on Twitter: “Our thoughts are with the victims, friends, families and neighbours of the gas explosion in Wilrijk. Thanks to all the emergency services.”

Meanwhile one man though to have been involved in the explosion turned up safe and well. Willy Batens, aged 80, recently moved out of the house he had lived in for 17 years to go and live in a rest home. “Friends think I still live there,” he told local TV station ATV. “The police were surprised when I answered the phone when they were looking for me. I’m especially worried about my old neighbours.”

Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever has described the cause as a gas explosion. A gas leak was reported in one of the damaged houses on 22 August, but the leak was repaired at the time. For the moment, no official cause of the explosion has been announced.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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