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Gas explosion pensioner ‘overwhelmed’ as community steps in when she’s left with nothing

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Barbara Bennie, 89, was left with just the clothes on her back after the huge explosion caused damage and destruction to 18 homes. When she was finally given a temporary flat, the pensioner did not have a stick of furniture according to reports. But after an appeal for help took off, Barbara’s family was inundated with support. Daughter-in-law Brenda said: “Barbara and the whole family were absolutely overwhelmed by the response.”

Barbara had initially moved in with her granddaughter Caryn after the explosion on East Kilbride village’s Main Street last May.

But a fall in December left her with back and spinal injuries and having to be admitted to Hairmyres Hospital.

She was later moved to a medical unit in Stonehouse.

In the meantime, a temporary flat was secured for Barbara, but it lay unfurnished ahead of her Christmas Eve discharge date.

The family feared Barbara would be facing the festive period in an empty property, so Caryn issued a plea for help which Lanarkshire Live recently shared.

But thanks to the generosity of the community she welcomed 2022 in her new place, where it’s hoped she’ll stay until South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) rebuild the block of flats where she was previously an owner/occupier.

Brenda explained: “Barbara had been staying with Caryn, but her flat just isn’t suitable, especially since the fall.

“Seven months on and we finally secured temporary accommodation for her, but there was absolutely nothing in it and she was getting discharged from hospital.

“We put the appeal up as trying to get anything on Christmas Eve, even out shops was so difficult.

“But Barbara and the whole family were absolutely overwhelmed by the response – and not just from East Kilbride, from North Lanarkshire too.

“She got a lovely armchair from a man in Overtown and TV from out Wishaw way.

“Caryn and I literally spent Christmas Eve driving all over Lanarkshire, but we were over the moon by the generosity shown.

“We also have to say a big thank you to the Crutherland House Hotel – they gave us a whole load of furnishings and we are so very grateful – Barbara is delighted.”

But Brenda says the way the aftermath of the explosion was dealt with left a lot to be desired – adding to an already horrendous situation.

“The handling of all this has been atrocious both by the insurance company and SLC.

“It’s been delay after delay and the communication has been abysmal – we have been left with no idea of what’s going on half the time,” she added.

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“Immediately after the explosion, the insurance company were questioning why Barbara needed the most basic of items.

“She was left standing in the street, stunned and badly shaken with only a nightie, dressing gown and slippers and they were questioning why she needed dentures.

“Everything in the flat is a write-off and covered in mould and we have been pestering the insurers for months saying the whole lot will need to be cleared and damage itemised and far as I am aware someone only went in last month to have a look.

“We also really weren’t happy that she was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve with no care in place.

“We had to put her in a hotel room on Christmas Eve when she was discharged as we couldn’t put her into an empty flat and nowhere else was suitable.

“Thankfully, folk from the Baptist Church went to the hotel to visit her as most of the family have ended up not well and didn’t want to risk passing anything on to her.”

A spokesman for insurers RSA said: “We’re very sorry for the delays to Mrs Bennie’s claim.

“It is a complex claim involving multiple parties, which has caused challenges in assessing the damage and progressing repairs. However, we have contacted Mrs Bennie and her family to apologise and are taking steps to expedite the claim.”

Additional reporting by Nicola Findlay

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