The forgotten New Ferry disaster - 15 months on
Along with many others on the Wirral, Christian and professional actor Christopher Lee-Power is continuing to campaign for all those affected by the New Ferry gas explosion last year ...
It was an ordinary Saturday night in March 2017 when it happened.
Christopher Power, was at home, sitting on the sofa in his pyjamas, unaware of the drama which was about to unfold. His wife and son were out and, unusually, he wasn't anywhere near the front room window, stroking the cat – which was a miracle, as he may well have died.
"Suddenly, there was a large explosion and all the windows were blown in. I jumped up and thought, 'That's a bomb – that's a car bomb.' I didn't have time to go to the window or front door. I ran through the kitchen, through the conservatory and out into our backyard, into a car-park behind and away from the blast."
The explosion in question was the New Ferry blast, which made the headlines when a shop unit in the Merseyside district had a gas leak, leaving all the shops in the parade destroyed, along with many homes and more than 30 people injured, two critically. Eventually, Power went around to the site of the blast.
"I could hear people screaming and crying and pointing in the direction of the furniture store, which I knew had a dance studio on the floor above it."
It was a miracle that nobody died that night, not least because a young person's dance class had finished only an hour earlier. Six months later, Christopher and his family had still not been able to live in their Victorian period mid-terrace house. Like other local residents, they were waiting for their home to be made structurally sound again. It was a defining time in Christopher's life.
"I learned that the social clubs and the two churches, St Mark's and Life Church, had opened their doors to anyone who needed somewhere to sleep that night – or just to talk, or be fed. We were to use the Life Church's services the second night, but that Saturday, once I had been reunited with Pauline and my son, we went to my mum's in Birkenhead. We arrived late of course when at 4am my wife received a message on her mobile. It was a friend from church, out in Pakistan. She had heard about the blast on the news! Eventually, we were offered her empty house, and we lived there, whilst she was abroad."
This time, Christopher has been a voice with the other residents of the community, before the regional media. Those affected feel abandoned by the authorities. Power continues to speak out for justice.
"At any time during the night of the explosion, I may have gone to the window and that would have been a completely different story.
"It has been a long journey and taken such a long time to see some progress on our home. This was due to the damage, and repairs to our grade two listed house. I am always reminded of how fortunate I was.
“There were many times when after the blast I was jumpy over loud noises. That's the scar the blast has left on me.
“It has been difficult as a family, not knowing when we will return to our home, having our world turned upside down in one night. We are now living in rented accommodation outside of our community.
"For those who lost their homes and their livelihoods, I'm determined to speak out so that we don't get forgotten. It's 15 months since that awful night. It's a night that I will never forget. My family is still not home but it is good to see that there has been some progress and work has begone on the Port Sunlight houses as well as the New Ferry houses."
Watch a short documentary about the disaster and its aftermath produced and filmed by Adam Leighton from John Moors University.