JUST before 3pm on an unremarkable Thursday afternoon, a massive gas explosion ripped through

the shopping precinct at Clarkston Toll on the south side of Glasgow.

At the time it was the worst peace-time explosion in Scotland, leaving 22 dead and more than 100 injured, many of them seriously. Most of the casualties were women shop assistants or housewives out shopping. For days prior to the explosion, everyone shopping at The Toll had complained of the overpowering smell of gas and, all that week, workmen had been digging up the road, searching for the source.

The night before they had worked under arc lights and, by the next morning, the terrace of shops was given the all-clear, although the smell still lingered.

The force of the blast, equivalent to a 300lb bomb, blew out the front of 10 shops and ripped the heart out of the modern shopping centre.

A passing bus took the full force of the blast. One passenger died instantly. All the others were badly injured.

More than half the shops simply disappeared. The car park above the shopping terrace collapsed, with

more than 20 vehicles

adding to the debris. The rescuers toiled on through that night and the whole of the following day. Passing pedestrians joined police

and firemen desperately tearing at rubble.

More than 100 police officers and 20 fire-brigade units, and every available ambulance in Glasgow was called to the scene.

They transferred casualties to the Victoria Infirmary and Hairmyres, where every available doctor and nurse was called in for duty, helped by colleagues from as far afield as Dumbarton, Glasgow, and Paisley.

Only in the past year has the community's wound healed sufficiently for the erection of a commemorative plaque for those who died.

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