Oxford shaken by massive explosion as lightning strike hits biogas facility

Massive column of fire blazed into Oxford's night sky, visible from miles away, prompting residents to capture and share videos of eerie spectacle

By Web Desk
October 03, 2023
Oxford shaken by massive explosion as fireball lights up night sky. Sky News

An incident unfolded on Monday night when a lightning strike triggered a substantial gas explosion at a food waste recycling plant in Oxfordshire.

Witnesses described the night sky lighting up with a dramatic fireball after the blast at the Severn Trent Green Power Plant in Cassington, situated to the north of Oxford.

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The lightning strike impacted one of the plant's biogas tanks at approximately 19:20 BST, resulting in a significant explosion, as reported by the company. Fortunately, no injuries were reported, and emergency services were swiftly engaged to secure the site.

A considerable response team, including six fire engines, 40 firefighters, police, and multiple ambulances, was dispatched to the plant. The facility processes food waste, converting it into biogas.

South Central Ambulance Service confirmed their presence at the scene, on standby to support the police and fire service. There were no immediate reports of casualties, according to the ambulance service.

Residents in the vicinity reported a spectacular orange glow lighting up the sky, accompanied by a loud crack resembling thunder. The incident also caused power outages in nearby areas like Witney, Burford, Chipping Norton, and Milton-under-Wychwood.

Thames Valley Police stated that the lightning strike likely hit gas containers at the site during adverse weather conditions, setting off a substantial fire. Earlier, the A40 had been temporarily closed as a precaution between Wolvercote and Eynsham due to the incident, but the road has since reopened.

To prioritise public safety, authorities advised nearby residents to remain indoors, ensuring windows and doors were securely shut, and urged them not to approach the incident scene.

The situation emphasises the unpredictable nature of natural events and underscores the necessity of swift emergency responses to mitigate potential risks and safeguard communities and vital infrastructure.

Kit Yates, a local resident, posted a clip on social media, speculating about the cause.

He said, "Saw this strange pulsing sky out of our windows looking northwest of Oxford. I'm guessing it's a fire caused by the lightning storm that passed over."

Mahmet Ciftci from Kidlington reported, "Just saw something here in Kidlington that looked like an explosion in the distance. We heard a rumble like thunder and saw flames in the distance. The horizon went orange for a while."

Numerous witnesses shared their experiences on social media, describing the event as a "loud explosion" and expressing their astonishment at the "strange pulsating sky."

Residents in nearby areas also felt the impact of the thunderstorm. Ana Cavey, who resides in Somerton, approximately 15 miles north of Oxford, recounted the terrifying experience: "We've had the most unbelievable thunder and lightning storm ever... it came out of nowhere and the noise was incredible."

The power outage resulting from the storm left many in the dark, with Joshua Bull noting, "Definitely some kind of explosion - sounds like it's out near Yarnton? Must have been huge, I'm in Marston and thought it was a car crashing outside my flat."

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