London's biggest explosion
Blast and destruction
A large part of the factory was instantly destroyed together with several nearby streets. The explosion was so great that red-hot lumps of metal rained down on the surrounding area and started fires for miles around. The glare from these fires could be seen as far away as Maidstone in Kent and Guildford in Surrey.
A local reporter, writing in the Stratford Express, wrote:
More than 900 homes in the surrounding area were destroyed or badly damaged. Between 60,000 and 70,000 properties were damaged to some degree. The cost of the damage was estimated at a quarter of a million pounds, a huge sum of money at that time.
Damage to factories and businesses
A gas-holder on the Greenwich Peninsula was destroyed in the explosion, shooting more than 200,000 cubic metres (8 million cubic feet) of gas into the sky in a huge fireball. The blast also badly damaged the Venestas plant - a large plywood factory next to Brunner-Mond - and a flour mill and other buildings at the Royal Victoria Dock in Canning Town.
Damage to homes and community
The Silvertown Fire Station, built three years previously, was across the road from the works and was almost destroyed, as were the firemen's own homes. Among the victims in these houses were Mary Ann Betts, aged 58, and her granddaughter, Ethel Betts, aged only four months.
Repair and recovery
It was obvious that the repair and rebuilding work would take months. Rather than give the money to unscrupulous private landlords, the government took on the job of rebuilding ruined homes itself.
By mid-February 1917, more than 1700 men were employed in repairing houses. By August most of the work was complete.
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