RESIDENTS on a Burnley street awoke yesterday morning to find a gaping hole in the front of a terraced house.

Emergency services had to cordon off part of Herbert Street after the exterior wall of the mid-terraced property collapsed in the early hours.

Police cordoned off the road up to St Matthew’s Street.

Building work was being carried out on the unoccupied house, number 39, before it collapsed.

The fire service’s specialist Urban Search and Rescue Team, from Chorley, were also called in. Fire crews erected a fence outside the building as extensive repairs will need to be carried before it can be made safe.

One of the adjacent properties was empty, but the other was evacuated as a precaution, amid fears that neighbouring houses could be unsafe.

National Grid gas engineers were also sent to the site to check that no damage had been caused to underground pipes.

Tests were carried out in the area, and the gas supply to the collapsed house was cut off.

The owner was not as the scene and attempts were being made yesterday to trace the householder, who is believed to live in Manchester.

James Rhodes, 47, who rents the property next door, had to be moved to temporary accommodation.

James had lived in the house with his two cats, Texas and Stitch, who were rescued by the fire brigade.

Careworker James said: “At 4.30am I heard a loud bang. I came out this morning to go to work and moved half the rubble myself, it was all over my car.

“I set off to go to work, I got into work and and thought I’d better go home or I might not have a house left.

“I’m upset. For the time being now I’ve been condemned, which I’m not happy about at all.

“If all that had caved in it would have taken me with it.

“I don’t know where I’m going to stay but something will turn up.”

Denise Odgers, station manager for Pendle Rural Fire Station, said: “The call came in from a neighbour who came out and saw the building rubble on his dashboard.

“We immediately cordoned off the area and checked the properties either side and evacuated one of the adjacent properties.

“A decision was made to go for permanent fencing.

“The properties at number 41 and 37 are not structurally sound. We don’t want to put anybody in a risky position.”

A Burnley Council spokesman said: “Building control officials have been out to the site. It appears that the collapse is related to work being carried out at the property, rather than weather related.

“We’ve made the area as safe as we can do.

"The road is fenced off, the road is closed, the pavement on the opposite side is open to pedestrians.

“We’ve made the area safe as we fear there may be further collapse.

“We’re trying to contact the owner, to let him know that his house has fallen down, and also because it is his reponsibility to make it right.

“We will keep monitoring it, but the main drive now is to try to find the owner.”