A ROW of houses in Ebbw Vale - branded "death-trap terrace" by locals after the homes were gutted by fire and contaminated by asbestos - has been demolished.

Last month more than 30 firefighters wearing white asbestos protective clothing battled through the night to tackle the inferno in Heol Rheidol, Rassau.

The flames, reported as being as high as 25 feet, raged through the derelict two-storey houses.

Angry residents, fearing their lives were in danger, either from arsonists or asbestos, begged Blaenau Gwent Council to raze them to the ground.

The council has answered the call and after a public meeting was held, contractors destroyed them.

Gareth Burcher, 17, from neighbouring Stonebridge Road, said: "It is good news because it was only a matter of time before someone was going to be killed."

The council is also set to demolish neighbouring derelict houses in Heol Ystwyth, Teifi, Claerwen and Llynfi in a project which is due to take over the next four months.

A council spokeswoman said: "We can assure residents that the removal of asbestos has been carried out under controlled conditions and will continue to be removed in line with the recognised control procedures of the Health and Safety Executive.

"Because the houses in Heol Rheidol were damaged by fire and were dangerous structures, we had to use emergency powers as a matter of urgency to demolish these properties in the interests of public safety.

"The area has been cleared and top soiled."

She said once the properties were removed the areas would be landscaped to create "an open and much improved environment", and locals consulted on its future use.

Gareth Burcher's father Colin said: "I am very pleased to hear what the council are doing."

A Gwent Police spokesman said they are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Ebbw Vale police on 01495 350999.