Belfast Telegraph

Chef's lucky escape as gas blast rocks Indian restaurant in Belfast

By Lauren Harte

A 32-year-old chef has had a miraculous escape following a suspected gas explosion at a newly opened Indian restaurant in east Belfast.

Ambulance crews, fire crews and the PSNI attended the scene after traders in Ballyhackamore reported a large explosion "like a car bomb" at around 4pm yesterday.

The Clay Oven restaurant was badly damaged in the blast, just two days after opening. Damage was also caused to a hair salon next door.

The area was cordoned off and the buildings assessed to ensure there was no fire or other risk to the public.

It's believed the damage is so bad that the building may have to be demolished.

The injured man suffered burns and was taken to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald following treatment at the scene.

His injuries were said to be non-life threatening.

The visibly distressed manager of the restaurant said: "I'm totally shocked, as we only opened on Monday, so this should have been our third night in business.

"We have seven people working for us and no idea how long we will be closed.

"Many of our staff have families, so that loss of wage will be hard.

"I have spoken to the injured chef and he is doing OK."

A number of neighbouring properties were evacuated, and others had to close early.

One woman, from The Chip Bar four doors away, heard the bang: She said: "I ran out to see what was going on and it was chaos, with glass everywhere. I'm gutted for the owners, when they've only just opened up. We won't be able to reopen tonight but hopefully things will be sorted out by the morning."

Jason Shankey, who owns a hairdressing salon on the Upper Newtownards Road, was on his way from his office when the explosion happened.

"My staff told me it was like something from the Eighties, it sounded like a car bomb going off," he said.

"I have spoken to a number of other traders in the area, a good bit away from me, and they said it shook their premises."

The Upper Newtownards Road from the Sandown Road junction to Earlswood Road was cordoned off. The scene remained closed last night and is expected to be remain out of bounds today, with the public being asked to avoid the area.

Translink last night confirmed that buses will be diverted via Holywood Road, Belmont Road, Hawthornden Way back on to Upper Newtownards Road in both directions until further notice.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers, who was in the area at the time, said: "It was quite frightening for people who thought that it might be a bomb."

Alliance councillor Peter McReynolds praised the emergency services for being on the scene so quickly.

Belfast Telegraph

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