THE bodies of two workers who died in an explosion a huge steelworks will have to remain on site until firefighters are certain it is safe to retrieve them.

The workers were on a cherry-picker at the time, it has emerged.

Flames could still be seen at times today at the SSI site in South Bank, Teesside, some three miles from the old Redcar blast furnace which closed nearly four years ago.

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Steve Johnson, area manager for prevention and protection at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said there is a “minimal” risk of further explosion, and a 150 to 200 metre cordon remains in place in the immediate surrounding area.

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'No stone should be left unturned' in explosion inquiry

Fire crews attended the SSI site in South Bank, Redcar, at around 2.15pm on Thursday after a blaze broke out on the premises.
On Friday morning, Cleveland Police confirmed two men had died in the incident.
The blast appeared to have engulfed the two workers who were on a blue cherry-picker at the time, working at a height.
It looked to have happened as they worked on large pipes near a gas holder.

Incident Commander, Detective Superintendent Tariq Ali, said: “We can now confirm that there have sadly been two fatalities as a result of an incident at the former SSI site in South Bank yesterday.

“The families of those two men have been informed and our thoughts remain with them at this very difficult time.”

Mr Johnson added: "It took 24 firefighters and four appliances to deal with the fire. There remains a controlled burning in the tower while further specialist advice is sought about the flammable potential of any other chemicals on the site.
He said: “We are allowing it to burn until we get specific technical advice.”
“We have appliances which are on site and they will remain on site in case of any flare ups.”
“The risk of further explosion is minimal hence we are seeking further scientific advice. The difficulty is that we can’t confirm the quantity of product in there. It is likely to be a different mix of chemicals.”
He explained that the towers are ventilated so the pressure isn’t building, hence minimising the risk of further explosion.

Emergency services are still dealing with the 'major incident' following a series of explosions yesterday.

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The site is understood to be in the process of being decommissioned by contractors.

Earlier on Thursday, emergency services had evacuated the site, part of the South Tees Development Corporation area, and declared the fire a "major incident".

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Six paramedic teams were called to the scene just after 2pm, while fire engines and police also rushed to the site Picture: DOUG MOODY

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Yesterday was a terrible and tragic day and all of our thoughts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the two workers who were involved in the accident on site.

“It is impossible to imagine the pain and distress which this news will have brought the loved ones of those involved. All of the staff who work at the South Tees Development Corporation site are deeply shocked and sorry for this loss.

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“All works on site have been suspended while investigations continue. The team is working with the emergency services and the Health and Safety Executive who will continue to have an ongoing presence on site.

“Let me be clear, we will examine every single detail of the work that was being conducted; we will make sure we do everything to understand exactly what happened and why.”

He later added: "Despite the ongoing major incident, my primary thoughts lie with the family, friends and colleagues of the two workers involved.

"On behalf of everyone here, they have our deepest sympathies.

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He added: "I have been on-site at the South Tees Development Corporation since yesterday afternoon, visited the incident and witnessed the emergency services and our own technical staff behaving in an exemplary way in incredibly tragic circumstances.

"The years of experience in dealing with heavy industry in Teesside has given us a workforce and emergency services to be proud of and who are able to respond to such incidents in an effective and professional manner.

"I will continue to support them until this incident is concluded.

"This is a very challenging and complex site and, due to the nature of the situation, it is appropriate and right that this is dealt with by the emergency services and specialist professionals at this time. It is important that they have the space that they need to do this without interference.

“The professionalism and dedication shown by them, as well as the South Tees Development Corporation site staff, has been exemplary.

“Our staff will continue to work around the clock, and I will continue to provide my full support, until the incident is concluded.

“We must make sure that the incident is brought to an end in a safe way so that no one from the emergency services is put in harm’s way.

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“My two immediate priorities are to assist in any way possible to bring the incident to an end, and to support our staff through the rest of this terrible ordeal. Our attention will turn to a full and thorough investigation to find out what happened and why once the incident has come to an end.”

A cordon of up to 250 metres has been put around the site, although Cleveland Police stressed there were no residential properties within the immediate area.

Businesses nearby were evacuated while emergency services dealt with the incident.

Police said: "This has been declared a major incident and there is a multi-agency collaborative response to this, with the situation being monitored continually."

Redcar MP Anna Turley said it was 'heartbreaking that people can go to work one day and not come home'.

She said in time questions needed to be asked about what exactly had happened to cause the accident on the 'highly dangerous' site.

The Health and Safety Executive has been informed of the incident.

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A spokesman for the Office of the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said that a control centre had been established on site and was co-ordinating with the emergency services.

There were up to three explosions reported, including one several hours after the initial blast.