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Four killed in Leicester explosion as rescue teams search for more casualties

Four other people remain in hospital, one with serious injuries.

Four people were killed in an explosion at a building in Leicester on Sunday night, police have confirmed.

Four other people remain in hospital, one with serious injuries.

Police also believe there may still be people unaccounted for after the incident, and emergency crews are continuing a “search and rescue” operation at the site on Hinckley Road.

Superintendent Shane O’Neill, of Leicestershire Police, said: “There are four confirmed fatalities at this stage and a number of people still undergoing treatment in hospital.

“The building consisted of a shop premises on the ground level and a two-storey flat above it. We believe there may be people who have not yet been accounted for and rescue efforts continue in order to locate any further casualties.

“Once the site is deemed to be safe a joint investigation with Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service will begin looking into the circumstances surrounding the incident, which at this stage is not being linked to terrorism.”

He urged anyone who knows someone who is missing to contact police, adding: “It is still a search and rescue operation. It is important we try and find as many people as possible.”

Emergency services responded to reports of the blast from concerned residents at about 7pm and police declared a major incident.

Firefighters worked through the night to dig through rubble and tackle the explosion’s subsequent blaze, and teams are expected to remain at the scene throughout the day.

Video taken at the scene on Sunday night showed flames billowing into the night sky as the fire engulfed what is believed to be a convenience store.

One clip appeared to show emergency services rushing to help someone close to flames that were visible from a distance.

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POLICE Explosion

The building appears to have stood next to a shop called TJ’s Takeaway.

Speaking to Sky News, Kat Pattinson, who lives on the same road as the fire, told how her “whole house shook” when the blast happened.

She added: “We checked on our children first and foremost and then we went outside.

“There is just an awful lot of smoke here at the moment and the whole area is cordoned off.”

She added that the shop on fire is usually open until about 9pm on a Sunday, and has a flat above it.

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue sent six fire engines to the scene, and said the property had suffered a “pancake collapse”.

Group manager Matt Crane, said firefighters would be on the site for “a number of days” and it was “still too early to say” what caused the explosion.

There was the potential for further collapse, and buildings on either side have sustained damage, he said.

He said: “On arrival there was a significant fire and significant building collapse, reports of numerous people possibly trapped within the building so crews have worked throughout the night to extinguish the fire.

“We now have got specialist search and rescue teams supported by search dogs on scene. We are trying to locate any further casualties that may be in the building. We still think this is a rescue phase of the operation.

“We are now working to get into different areas of the building using shoring techniques to see if we can locate anybody that may be alive in the building.”

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Emergency personnel continue to work at the scene on Hinckley Road in Leicester (Joe Giddens/PA)

Witness Tahir Khan said: “I was driving past when it happened.

“Loads of people were gathered and there was gas and flames coming out of the building.

“I looked on the road and half the building was on the road. Literally the whole of the side of the building had been blown out.

“I couldn’t believe it, it was like a Hollywood movie.”

BBC journalist John Alexander said: “I live about 80 yards away from where it happened.

“I felt a tremor, what felt like an earthquake shock and I heard a very low boom that sounded like a very, very fast release of pressure.

“I thought my house was going to fall down on top of me and all my neighbours have said the same thing.

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Leicester explosion

“I saw one guy get pulled out and he’ll be very lucky if he wasn’t killed.”

Hinckley Road remains closed in both directions from its junction with Bolton Road to its junction with Woodville Road.

Gas network Cadent said establishing the cause of the fire would be a matter for the fire and police services.

A spokesman said Cadent “assisted the emergency services last night, by isolating the gas supply” to the property on Hinckley Road and adjoining properties.

He added: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the four people who have died, as well as those who have been injured.”

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