A MAN is fighting for his life in hospital after a suspected gas explosion ripped apart a house.

The victim was said to have been blown through a window such was the force of the blast at the property in Wordsworth Road, Darlington.

Witnesses spoke of seeing the man on fire.

He was taken by ambulance to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle with what have been described as “life-threatening” injuries, having been transported from the property on a stretcher.

One witness at the scene said: “He is in a bad way. I saw him in the garden on fire.”

In a statement Durham Police said a “loud explosion may have been heard” and nearby homes had been evacuated.

The first floor windows in the damaged property were blown out, while the roof suffered extensive damage with the upper part of the gable end exposed.

A cordon was set up around the wrecked property and the road was blocked off to traffic and pedestrians.

Dozens of residents came out from their houses to stand and watch the activity involving the emergency services in the aftermath of the explosion.

An aerial ladder was being used to remove lose tiles from the roof of the house, while a drone was also sent high into the night sky to film the scene from above.

A spokesman for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue said three fire engines had been sent to Wordsworth Road on Darlington’s Skerne Park estate at about 6.23pm.

Firefighters later requested the aerial ladder platform to be sent from Durham.

The exact cause of the blast was under investigation.

In response to a Facebook post by police on the incident, Chelsea Blakey Beadle said: “He [the victim] is in the best of hands at the minute. Come on you can pull through this.”

Tanya Dunbar said: “Was awful to see. Praying the man pulls through.”

Clive Matthews said: “Everywhere shook and the explosion was awful. Hope he pulls through.”

A spokeswoman for Northern Gas Networks said: "We do have engineers on site and the area is being made safe.

"There has been some sort of explosion and the fire brigade are in attendance. It will be an ongoing incident throughout the evening.”