The devastation caused by a gas explosion that ripped through brick walls at a block of flats resembled a "lorry hitting the building," according to shaken residents.

Neighbours said a 79-year-old "local character" called Eddie, who lived in the flat next to where the blast appeared to have happened, was taken to hospital on a stretcher.

Debris and personal items from the damaged ground-floor flats were spread across more than 100 yards at both the front and back of the building in Garratt Lane, Earlsfield.

A pal of Eddie, who asked not to be named, said: "I was just thinking about him because he grew up in the war and they were bombed.

"It must have been terrifying.

"He's well known in the area. He wears a hat, a cravat and carries a cane. He's a local character. He's always wearing a suit."

Other neighbours told of their shock.

RELATED: Pictures show the destruction caused by Earlsfield explosion

Engineer Alan Claughan, 57, who lives in a block 200 yards away from the blast, said: "The whole building shook and then the corridor alarms went off.

"I was getting ready, having breakfast, and then just bang. I thought it was a bomb.

"I ran to the windows and had a look outside. I've no idea what happened.

"I'm thinking gas main just because of the way it went off."

Another neighbour John O'Sullivan, 53, said: "I thought it could have been a bomb.

"The bang itself and the rubble lasted for about a second.

"It was definitely in the kitchen because there's a microwave oven hanging out of the window."

London Fire Brigade Commander Alan Brand, Hammersmith fire station manager, said 25 firefighters and four fire engines were called to the scene just before 7.30am.

RELATED: people injured following gas explosion in Wandsworth

"It was a very dynamic scene at first and we rescued one adult male from the ground floor flat who has been taken to hospital," he said.

"Another man, I think from an adjacent flat, was also taken to hospital."

"The main priority was for the persons involved.

"It does look very dramatic. The explosion has forced all the brickwork outwards.

"The main structure for the pillars and ceiling are still there.

"It is safe for residents to reoccupy their flats. Remedial works are being carried out post incident."

An investigation into the cause of the blast has been launched.

Local pub worker George Lepley, 24, said he jumped out of bed faster than he ever had in his life when he heard the blast.

"There was a loud bang which felt like a bus had hit our flat.

"As the firefighters were going into the building, all of a sudden we saw the instant they found a body because everyone was rushing inside.

"We saw the firefighters take out a casualty. We watched them fling him over the shoulder. We saw him get taken away to the hospital.

"They came and placed him on the floor. He wasn't moving, but my friend said he was probably alive as they raised his legs."