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Frantic race to save woman trapped in rubble after explosion at Whalan housing estate in western Sydney

Rescuers are frantically digging through the rubble in a bid to find a woman trapped in the rubble of a house in Sydney’s west following a suspected gas explosion on Saturday afternoon.

The search and rescue operation was launched at a complex of collapsed houses on Waikanda Cres in Whalan, in Sydney’s west, following the explosion shortly before 1pm.

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The explosion was heard several suburbs away and destroyed a two-storey terraced house in the over-55s social housing complex, causing “widespread damage” to neighboring properties in the complex.

Five people were treated for minor injuries following the explosion, including two women in their 60s and 70s, one of whom was in a wheelchair. A small dog, believed to be a puppy, was also rescued from the ruins.

“Really, for a small number of people, it has been a very fortunate escape,” said New South Wales Ambulance Chief Superintendent Ian Johns.

A semi-detached house was flattened by the explosion, while those around it were damaged.A semi-detached house was flattened by the explosion, while those around it were damaged.
A semi-detached house was flattened by the explosion, while those around it were damaged. Credit: Supplied
A search and rescue operation is underway at a housing complex in Whalan after a large explosion on Saturday.A search and rescue operation is underway at a housing complex in Whalan after a large explosion on Saturday.
A search and rescue operation is underway at a housing complex in Whalan after a large explosion on Saturday. Credit: 7NEWS

However, one woman remained missing and, late in the afternoon, a tapping sound was heard coming from the rubble, although not from those directly involved in the rescue attempt. The search for her continues.

“There has been substantial damage to a premises here on this street,” said New South Wales Police Superintendent Darrin Batchelor.

“Unfortunately there is still one person missing.

“Our fears are genuine for this person, who may be located among that rubble, yes.”

Neighbors described their surprise at the ferocity of the explosion.

“I was lying in the living room watching TV and I heard a massive explosion, I ran outside thinking someone had put a firebomb on my terrace or something,” resident Leanne Ansell told 7NEWS.

A woman is believed to be trapped under the rubble. A woman is believed to be trapped under the rubble.
A woman is believed to be trapped under the rubble. Credit: 7NEWS

His neighbor Peter said he was “sitting there and all of a sudden, boom!”

FRNSW said “the large explosion shattered windows and damaged neighboring homes in the apartment complex.”

“The gas company has not been able to cut off the supply to the site and is trying to isolate the network.

“There is no fire at this time, but the scene remains volatile and unstable.”

Fire and Rescue NSW said the situation remained volatile. Fire and Rescue NSW said the situation remained volatile.
Fire and Rescue NSW said the situation remained volatile. Credit: 7NEWS

However, NSWFR superintendent Ross Genders said it was unknown what caused the explosion.

“Actually, we don’t know what caused the explosion,” he told reporters.

The public has been urged to avoid the area as the emergency operation remains ongoing and local traffic diversions are in place.

New South Wales Police are investigating the explosion.

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