The big clean-up operation begins at Rackheath

Hundreds of businesses sharing Rackheath Industrial Estate have been left counting the cost after Wednesday night's explosion at KC Cafe forced the estate's closure for most of yesterday.

Norfolk Fire Service said yesterday that early signs indicated an accidental gas explosion had caused the blast which was felt in most places within a 10-mile radius.

The industrial estate's 500-plus businesses were unable to operate as normal yesterday, as emergency services sealed off the only access road in and out.

It is understood the owner of KC Cafe had only taken the business over a few days earlier.

The business which bore the brunt of the explosion is piping suppliers Stratstan in Wendover Road. The business was the closest had the side of its part of the building directly next to the cafe ripped away.

With debris still being blown around by a gusty wind yesterday, the fire service and its various partners were not happy to allow traffic to start passing by again, leaving all businesses unable to get vehicles in or out.

It is thought the financial loss of the dramatic incident will run into tens of thousands of pounds and the clean-up operation is now under way.

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Wendover Road was re-opened for private use at around 4.30pm yesterday, as Norfolk Fire Service spokesman Martin Barsby confirmed: 'The road is open again for people to access their premises. It is not open to the public, it is for people who need to get in and out of their business and for deliveries.'

Tilia Properties, who own around two-thirds of the premises on the industrial estate, have been working alongside the emergency services to get tenants back into their business as quickly as possible.

Tilia director Nick Hovey said; 'While a terrible incident, the good news is nobody was hurt but unfortunately there has been considerable damage to a number of buildings which has clearly impacted on some of our tenant's operations.

'Since we first heard the news all of our development team have been working flat out with the fire and police services using our knowledge of Rackheath Industrial Estate and the buildings concerned.

'And the good news is that we were able to get the road open last night. We managed to get all the road swept and there's some big hairnet type things which have been put over the buildings in a mess so the road was able to open and businesses could get in and out again.'

Mark Jones, director of East Anglia Car Recycling is already expecting a couple of thousand pounds worth of damage as one of his company's vans was parked on the cafe car park.

He said: 'I would say as a rough estimate we are looking at a �1,000 loss at least but we had a van parked on the cafe car park and that is going to be a write-off.

'We couldn't get near the van today but we could see it had been pushed on to the posts surrounding the car park and the damage of the blast, so that is going to be on top of the lost business.

'There's a few hundred in wages we have to write off as well because everyone still managed to get into work, but it's just been that no-one has been doing what they would normally be doing.

'As I'm sure you can understand, operating in these times is still very much hard work but added disruptions such as these it makes it even harder.'

One of the many businesses unable to operate properly was motorcycle specialists Beasty Bikes, who were unable to take bikes out on test drives.

Owner Roger Lee said: 'We are concerned that customers are unable to collect their vehicles. This has had a detrimental effect to our business as we are just recovering after a huge decline following the severe weather in December.

'After the effects of the heavy snow which resulted in loss of business we are now beginning to recover so this could be a huge blow to our main source of income.'