Heroic residents have described how they clambered past flaming debris, through dust and rubble shortly after a suspected gas explosion to pull an injured man alive from the ruins of a house.
The man is in a life-threatening condition following the blast in Kingstanding in north Birmingham.
One man, who declined to give his name, told the PA news agency: “Everyone was watching, the house was on fire, nobody was going in, so we could see a way in – so we went in the house, me and about a dozen others.
“There was a guy in the back (of the house), we could hear the guy screaming, but he was trapped up against the fridge in the kitchen.
“The dust from the loft insulation was burning around us.
“We managed to get to him, and pull him out – I still have his blood on my jeans.
“We got him out, he ended up coming out on a mattress.
“But he was saying there was a woman in the house.”
“His clothes had been blown off, you couldn’t even see him, he was covered in blood,” added the rescuer.
He added: “We just went straight through the (front) door, and I thought I went through the house’s door – but it was actually the next door house’s door, because the house door had been destroyed.
“We come out to the back, and then we could hear the man geezer screaming, and we dug him out.
“He was in the kitchen, lying flat on the floor, with his back against a fridge or washing machine.
“He was going ‘don’t pull me – my legs’ and I said ‘mate, we’re going to have to take you out now’.”
The group of rescuers broke damaged water pipes, amid the rubble, to try to douse their own clothes, to protect from the flames.
Standing at the police cordon, watching the emergency services working under powerful spotlights amid the devastation, the resident added: “There’s nothing left of that house at all.
“We went through the house – and that house is gone.”
West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) said people at the scene rescued a man from the destroyed house but he had “very significant injuries” and was taken to hospital.
Four other men suffered minor injuries and were assessed by ambulance crews at the scene, WMAS added.
A spokesperson said: “A man was helped from the property by people at the scene but had suffered very serious injuries.
“After assessment and treatment at the scene, he was taken on blue lights to the major trauma centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham with the MERIT team travelling with the ambulance.
“His condition on arrival at hospital was described as life threatening.
“Four further men have been assessed by ambulance crews for minor conditions but have been discharged at the scene.
“Members of the Hazardous Area Response Team continue to work with specialist firefighters at the scene.”
Birmingham Police tweeted that the West Midlands Fire Service believe it was a gas explosion and had taken over command of the incident.