The close-knit community of Ryhope has been praised for ‘pulling together’ after a shock blast left one resident in a coma and others having lost everything.
On Friday, a home on Rosslyn Avenue in the Sunderland village was destroyed in a gas explosion.
Susan Shepherd, 40, was inside at the time, and miraculously survived thanks to a fridge which fell on top of her, protecting her from the worst of the heat and debris.
She was seriously hurt in the incident, and it’s understood she is still in a serious condition in hospital.
Meanwhile her neighbours, Christine and Colin Fisher, have also lost all their possessions, as well as their home, which had to be pulled down alongside the remnants of Ms Shepherd’s house.
Families in the village have rushed to the aid of those left in need.
A Facebook group for the area has been flooded with offers of clothing, help, and updates from the people affected.
A fundraising page set up to help residents recover some of their lost possessions has already raised over £1,300.
Christine Hope, 59, who has lived in the village for most of her life, is one of the organisers of the Ryhope Community Spirit group.
The group, set up to help organise seasonal community events, is helping to raise cash, with a fundraising night already planned.
Christine said: “When this happened on Rosslyn Avenue, everyone seemed to pull together straight away. It’s amazing the support you get here.
“It’s actually lovely, Ryhope is a lovely place to live anyway, and something like this just shows that.
“The girl whose house was blown up, she’s known by a lot of people, and the people next door, their house was destroyed too. They’ve all lost everything houses, so we just want try to get them a bit of something to get them started.
“Even some of the adjoining houses have been affected – their cars have been broken, there’s debris on the roof.
“Any donations would make a big difference – you can’t imagine just losing everything like that.”
But despite the terrible loss, Christine said it was amazing that Ms Shepherd survived, and no-one else was hurt.
She says even Ms Shepherd’s little dog, Milo, who is well known on the street, managed to get away, and was found safe and well at a relative’s house.
Reverend David Chadwick, of St Paul’s Church, just a few streets away from Rosslyn Avenue, also praised the way his parish had come together.
He said: “On the day of the explosion I went along to the community centre where people had been evacuated to, and it was amazing to see how everyone had mucked in to help.
“The local bakers had provided quiches for everyone, the charity shop had provided clothes – there’s been a fantastic response from the community.
“Increasingly we’ve been coming together as a community over the past three or four years – and I think we’re now seeing the benefit of us all being a bit closer and more generous now.”
The victims are also being offered help to find homes by social housing provider Gentoo, which owned the destroyed houses.
Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director of Operations at Gentoo Group said: “The safety and wellbeing of our residents is of paramount importance to us and we have a team of staff on hand offering support.
“All residents in the surrounding area have been given the contact details for specific members of Gentoo staff for any queries or concerns they have.
“Following the necessary safety checks, all residents are now able to move back in to their homes with the exception of one family, where their property requires extensive further repair. We have placed them in temporary accommodation until their home is ready.”
“With regards to the residents of the two properties now demolished, one remains in hospital and the couple in the other property are in temporary accommodation, provided by Gentoo. We have already offered this couple alternative permanent accommodation which they are now considering.
“Our team have ensured they have everything they need in terms of clothing and necessities for the short term and we continue to offer them support and assistance.”
The fundraising page for Ryhope families affected by the explosion can be found at www.gofundme.com/helping-ryhope-families-11817