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Blast survivor knows he's lucky to be alive.

Byline: Julia McWatt

THE stepbrother of a man who was badly burned in an explosion at his Cardiff flat has spoken of his disbelief that his sibling managed to survive the blast.

The incident, at the firstfloor flat in Caerleon Close, St Mellons, left 45-year-old Salvation Army worker Richard Hopwood with burns to his limbs and back, and also singed his face.

His stepbrother, Andrew Darkes, 46, who also lives in St Mellons, said he was in shock when he heard the blast and got to Richard's house, where he saw the flat's roof had been taken off and the walls blown out.

He said: "I was round there 10 minutes before the flat exploded. I went home and then I heard the explosion.

"I pulled up round the corner and thought, 'What on earth has happened?' It was sheer devastation.

"You don't expect this to happen in Cardiff and not to a family member."

Having initially been taken to the University Hospital of Wales, Mr Hopwood is now at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

Mr Darkes said: "He's fine. He is out of danger, but we have been told he has 40% flash burns.

"He is going to be in intensive care for a while and he has had one operation but they do not think he will have to have more.

"He is speaking and he knows how lucky he is. I think it will take a couple of days to sink in.

"He's going to make a good recovery. I think when he gets out of hospital he should buy a lottery ticket!" Mr Darkes said he also wanted to reassure people about the wellbeing of two dogs - Jo, a greyhound, and Rosie, a lurcher - that had been staying with Mr Hopwood and had not been seen by residents since the blast.

He said: "So many people have been asking me about the dogs but they are fine. They are actually my dogs and they were with me at the time."

Residents who gathered at the scene said they heard a loud bang which sounded like a "bomb going off" at around 12.30pm on Wednesday.

The explosion left bricks, window frames and glass blasted across the street.

Mr Darkes said they were still trying to discover the cause.

It was thought to be gasrelated, however no leaks were discovered by investigators for West & Wales Utilities.

Cardiff council investigators were back at the site yesterday but said no decisions had been made about whether or not the property needed to be demolished.

CAPTION(S):

* The scene of the explosion in Caerleon Close, St Mellons, on Wednesday. Neighbours said it was 'like a bomb going off'
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 30, 2012
Words:447
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