Whalan explosion: Desperate bid to save trapped woman

A woman feared trapped in a townhouse which collapsed due to a suspected gas explosion has been identified as rescuers battle to reach her.

The building in Whalan, about 45 kilometers west of Sydney’s CBD, exploded just before 1pm on Saturday and Jasmin Mhey is the only person left unaccounted for.

Firefighters rushed to the scene of the incident in Waikanda Crescent, which injured six people and destroyed several nearby units. The explosion was so powerful that it was felt 40 kilometers away.

Five people were evacuated, including two women aged 60 and 70. The dog was also rescued.

Nurse Jasmin Mhey, 30, remains unidentified and is understood to have visited her mother Mercy at Whalan Town Hall before the incident. The Daily Telegraph reported.

Resident Evelyn said she sat with Mercy and talked about her daughter during the search.

“She was soaked so I gave her a warm jacket and a blanket,” Evelyn said. “She kept saying, ‘My daughter is strong, my daughter is strong,’ so I kept telling her to keep believing in it and keep believing in it.

“She burst into tears a few times.”

In the months before the explosion, Jasmin’s mother complained about the stench of gas, which was spread throughout all the government apartments and even in the streets. Other residents also noticed the smell.

Another neighbor, Anna Jean, told Mercy she was “distraught” when she returned to find the building had exploded and happened again; “I told them about the gas, I told them.”

While local Amy said The Daily Telegraph that Mercy was trying to contact her daughter.

“She kept calling her daughter’s number, but there was nothing,” Amy said.

“She then told the police that her daughter was supposed to be at Volcano’s Steakhouse in Wetherill Park … so the police called there and they said she didn’t show up, so we knew she must be down there.”

A Volcano employee allegedly confirmed that Jasmin did not show up for her shift, which began at 3 p.m.

There were knocking sounds – a sign of life – on Saturday, but they have since stopped.

Bob Howard, another neighbor, said he ran outside to help but was stopped by the overpowering smell of gas, so he called out to people: “We have to get out of here, this smell of gas is so strong we could all went.”

Firefighters are using search cameras to peer under the rubble and concrete slabs, looking for possible survivors and using acoustic monitoring devices to pick up any sounds beneath the rubble. The police conducted a hunting dog over the ruins.

Despite earlier reports of crashing sounds, no signs of human life were detected.

Firefighters also dealt with a number of smaller fires under the ruins.

NSW Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell returned to the scene today to review rescue efforts and said it was still possible to find someone alive.

“The bottom line is that there’s been a complete destruction of a large structure … and the job of the rescuers is to work their way through that rubble and try to find spaces in the collapsed area where anyone could be trapped,” Commissioner Fewtrell said.

“Operators working in this area have a range of different skills, from firefighting experience, hazardous materials experience or even from a specialist rescue operations perspective.

“Those rescuers who are combing the area understand the nature of structural collapse, the different ways in which buildings are stressed, and that gives them an indication of the types of places they’re looking for survivors.

“It’s still in the window for someone to survive,” the commissioner explained, “You may remember in 1997 when we had the Thredbo landslide…it’s been almost a week since Stuart Diver was rescued…so we’re working to really explore the building. as thoroughly as possible.”

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