British detectives investigating a massive explosion that killed a child in Oldham are treating the death as suspicious.
The boy, named locally as Jamie Heaton and thought to be aged two, died after what was believed to be a gas blast ripped through three houses and reduced them to rubble on Tuesday morning.
A man who is not related to the child - named by locals as Anthony Partington – was taken to hospital with severe burns.
Scores of firefighters, police and paramedics were scrambled to Buckley Street at around 11.15am yesterday following the booming explosion which rocked the immediate area and sparked an evacuation of local residents.
Witnesses said the blast left the area looking like a war zone, with emergency workers rushing to the scene and scouring the damaged properties for survivors.
The most badly hit houses were numbers 9 and 11, with search teams discovering the dead body of the child inside one of them.
According to locals, Mr Partington, 27, who was a qualified joiner but had recently been made redundant, lived at a rented property with his partner.
Superintendent Neil Evans said police were aware of local rumours that a domestic incident took place in the area on Monday night.
He added: "What I can categorically say is that if that is the case, the police were not called.
"However, if anyone has any information about this, particularly if they think it might be relevant to what happened today, I would urge them to get in touch."
Mr Evans also said the dead child’s family had been left "absolutely distraught" by his death.
Witnesses said the explosion was so loud and powerful that it shook other houses on the street.
Waqar Hussain, whose family rent out one of the destroyed properties, lives a few doors away.
He said: "I had walked past just a few minutes earlier and gone into my house.
"The explosion was massive. I thought a bomb had gone off. The whole house shook. My mother was crying and when I went out onto the street I couldn't take it in.
"It was like some weird dream. I just stood looking at the rubble and mess not knowing what to do when the police arrived and moved me away."
Adam Pollard, 21, was at his mother's house just 500 yards away when he heard the explosion.
"It was the biggest bang I have ever heard, all the windows shook, I could see the smoke and came running up towards my flat," he said.
"I got to the street and the three houses that had been there were just rubble, basically.
"I was worried if someone was trapped. I went running on to the rubble, shouting to see if anyone was injured. I couldn't see anyone and there was no fire, just smoke in the air.
"There was a weird smell, not of gas, like a burning smell."
Emergency services say they do not know when people will be allowed back into their homes.
Some 80 people have sought refuge at the makeshift help centre at a local school, and Oldham Council is offering temporary accommodation to those who need it.