TWO people are fighting for lives in hospital today after an explosion in a former convent where workers were removing asbestos.

Terrified locals heard a loud bang before their houses shook following the explosion at the pastoral centre in Bonkle Road in Wishaw’s Newmains.

Mercy crews, including a trauma team, rushed to the scene while an air ambulance landed on a hill nearby to treat casualties "covered in blood" at around 1.30pm today.

A man and a woman were then rushed to Glasgow Royal Infirmary for treatment to serious injuries. It is understood the woman was a passerby.

Jim Vallance, who has lived in the area for 10 years, said: “We heard a man scream so I knew instantly it was bad.

“I am still shaking. It was an almighty boom. I have never experienced anything like it.”

Jim explained dust poured out the building following the explosion while the pastoral centre’s ornate doors blasted out.

Another neighbour Nicola Allan expressed her shock. She said: “I heard a bang and I thought someone was coming through my front door.

“Our windows shook - that is how big it was. I got a fright as I didn’t know what was happening. I have never heard anything this big before.”

Shortly after the explosion, residents were evacuated from the area while police officers set up a cordon.

Gas engineers from SGN then arrived at the scene.

A spokeswoman for the firm said their engineers made the situation safe by turning off the gas supply to the building.

She added: “The cause of the explosion is under investigation.”

The pastoral centre is owned by the Catholic Church and closed due to financial constraints.

Father Jim Thompson, who is a priest at St Mary’s Church in Lanark, told The Evening Times that workers had moved in on Wednesday to remove asbestos in preparation for the demolition of the building.

Those workers were sat outside the police cordon. One of the workers looked visibly upset with his hands on his head.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Motherwell said that they would assist the authorities with any investigation going forward.

He said: “The Diocese of Motherwell is aware of an incident which took place on Thursday afternoon at a disused pastoral centre in Newmains, Motherwell. Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured.

“Every assistance will be given to the emergency services in any investigation going forward.”

Police Scotland also said that their investigations were ongoing.