Investigations into the explosion at Redwood Grove in Bedford may be able to progress quicker than initially expected.
Police have been in discussions with structural engineers and now believe they may be able to access the main affected block of flats quicker than expected.
This will mean they can begin a detailed search more quickly – once structural support and safety measures have been put in place over the next few days.
And emergency services hope that the majority of residents in the next door block of flats will be back in their homes by the end of the week.
Once this has happened, they hope to allow access to vehicles that are still in the cordoned areas – and it is also hoped that those who lived in the directly impacted flats will be able to briefly return to collect important or cherished items.
Police expect this to be in the weeks ahead, given the need to make the building structurally safe and then complete detailed searches.
Chief Superintendent John Murphy, leading the Bedfordshire Police response to the incident, said: “We are continuing to do our work in Redwood Grove as quickly and as safely as we can.
“We know that this will be a protracted investigation given the complexity of the site, but we have had some positive news from structural experts today that means we will be able to make progress more quickly than we initially thought.
“Our thoughts remain with the family of the person who is believed to have died in this tragic and hugely distressing incident. We have specialist officers available to support them however we can.
“We are also working as fast as we can to get residents back into their homes. I would like to thank everyone for their ongoing support and patience amidst this ongoing disruption and please be assured we are doing all we can to help.”
At least one person is confirmed to have died in the explosion and fire on Monday (July 4).
Specialist officers are speaking with and supporting the next of kin of the person who is believed to have died, but have not yet been able to formally confirm their identity.
Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service has confirmed there is no mains gas supply into the building.
Their specialist fire investigators continue to work with colleagues from Bedfordshire Police to establish the cause of the fire and are following a number of lines of enquiry.
Specialist police search teams have been carrying out searches at the edge of the cordon this week, with the site having been formally handed to police by the fire service yesterday afternoon.
Police have set up an information centre for people to get in touch, report any concerns or find out about family members.
Concerned family and friends can also call 0800 051 6085.
There is also a fundraiser for the victims of the fire.