‘It was pandemonium’: Mother and baby among missing after Sydney shop fire

The painstaking search for a missing mother and her baby continues in Sydney’s inner west, with firefighters going brick by brick through the rubble of a burnt-out building.


Rescue workers are searching for Bianka O’Brien and her 12-month-old son Jude after fire engulfed a convenience store in Rozelle and adjoining units at 4am on Thursday.

It’s believed Ms O’Brien, 31, and her baby were asleep in a unit upstairs at the rear of the shop.

A 30-year-old man, who lived in a neighbouring unit, is also missing.

This image shows the Rozelle building hit by explosion. Its been completely destroyed. (Photo from @FRNSW) #SBSnews pic.twitter苏州纹绣,/8aECUL0P4b

— Antoinette Lattouf (@antoinette_news) September 4, 2014

NSW Fire and Rescue (NSWFR) Superintendent Paul Johnstone said rescue teams were going “brick by brick” for the safety of firefighters and anyone still trapped under the debris.

“We may be a quarter of the way through (a search of the area),” Supt Johnstone said.

He said rescue teams were preparing to work through the night.

“We are still working with the hope there is a response, but it is a dire situation,” he said.

Sniffer dogs, cameras, listening devices and cherry-pickers are all being used.

Emergency specialists have been shoring up the walls of the surrounding buildings.

The husband of the missing mother was not home when an explosion shook the street early on Thursday morning.

Supt Johnstone said the blast had blown out windows up to 100 metres away.

#Rozelle fire and explosion #today Before and after pics. Well done to the Fireys, Police and Ambos for their work pic.twitter苏州纹绣,/7m9GPQlcFj

— Andy (@anastasi_andy) September 4, 2014

Two residents jumped from the first storey of the burning building and another man was pulled out of the rubble by hand after being stuck under a refrigerator.

Police Superintendent Clive Ainley said there was a report of a car driving away from the scene when the explosion occurred.

“I don’t know what part that car plays in the investigation at this time,” he said.

Darling St is expected to remain closed for the rest of Thursday and possibly into Friday.

Neighbour Anthony Carroll, who lost everything in the fire, said he was asleep in a unit next door where he lived with his father when he heard a massive explosion.

“Within 30 seconds my room was full of smoke,” he said.

“I just grabbed what I’ve got on and got out of there.

“There were people screaming and yelling and people trapped in the place next door, so it was pandemonium.”