Leicester

Leicester explosion: Five people confirmed dead

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Media captionLeicester explosion: What we know

Five people have died in an explosion at a shop in Leicester.

Residents said they heard "a big thud, like an earthquake" at the time of the blast in Hinckley Road at about 19:00 GMT on Sunday.

Five other people remain in hospital, one in a critical condition, Leicestershire Police said.

Supt Shane O'Neill said police believe there may be more people unaccounted for and rescue efforts were continuing on Monday.

At this stage the explosion is not being linked to terrorism, he added.

The building consisted of a shop premises on the ground level and a two-storey flat above.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Crews are searching through debris strewn across Hinckley Road

The shop had gone through many owners but recently became a Polish supermarket called Zabka. It is believed to have only been trading since the new year.

Store owner Aram Kurd, who was on duty with another member of staff, said he had gone to the storeroom when the explosion happened.

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Media captionShop owner trapped under rubble: "I saw fire from everywhere, like I was inside hell"

"I heard a big bang, I thought 'What was that?' and found myself on the floor.

"My eyes were open, looking up and my body was half covered in rubble. I couldn't breathe, I was lying....I don't know how long for.

"Everywhere I could see fire, like I was inside hell."

Mr Kurd said he did not know what happened to the member of staff.

Krishna Rungen, who lives nearby, said his brother-in-law lived at the address with his wife and three sons.

Mr Rungen said his brother-in-law, who was at work when the explosion happened, was at the hospital with his youngest son, who was not seriously injured.

"I am still waiting for news from the hospital and from the police," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A section of Hinckley Road in Leicester remains cordoned off

Matt Cane, group manager at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said the bodies of the five people were found during the search of the building.

He added fire crews were still working to find survivors who may be trapped in "voids" inside the collapsed building.

"When you look at the pictures of the building it looks incredibly unlikely that we would find anybody but we are absolutely committed to search and rescue at this stage," he said.

"There are still pockets of fire in the basement area of the building."

Rescue work was temporarily suspended at about 14:00 on Monday over fears for the stability of a neighbouring building.

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Media captionSupt Shane O'Neill said that four people had died, before the death toll later rose to five

Gas network Cadent said it had assisted emergency services on Sunday night by "isolating the gas supply" to the building and adjoining properties on Hinckley Road.

Supt O'Neill, from Leicestershire Police, said he "can't say at this stage" what may have caused the explosion.

"It is a joint investigation between the fire service and the police and the priority is to make the area safe," he added.

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."

'We heard a little boy crying'

Tony Hartley, who lives near the blast site, said a group of men ran to the scene to help the injured people.

"Me and a friend lifted up a steel girder with about five other blokes and removed a bloke from underneath it," he said.

"We then turned round, saw rubble and heard a little boy crying. There was me and another bloke sifting through the rubble and we managed to pull the boy out.

"I said to him 'Is there anybody else in there?' and he said 'My friend's a metre back inside the building' and that's when the emergency services turned up.

At the scene, BBC reporter Caroline Lowbridge

Image caption Leicestershire Police declared a "major incident" after the blast in Hinckley Road

Amid the unfolding tragedy of the past few days, many positive stories have emerged of ordinary people helping others in their hour of need.

Before emergency services arrived and the flames took hold, people rushed out of homes and businesses and started trying to dig through the rubble.

Dave Hornby - who directed traffic in his slippers - described how he saw dozens of people helping.

"There were a lot of people around the shop front pulling rubble apart trying to get people out - there were probably 20 or 30," he said.

"There was a chap who pulled somebody out. He wasn't sure whether the person was in the building or just walking past at the time, and he dragged them out literally from the rubble."

Mr Hornby himself was thanked by a police officer who mistook him for an off-duty colleague.

Others gave first aid so the emergency services could concentrate on helping those most badly injured. One woman described how her daughter and son-in-law treated two people who were taken away in ambulances.

"My daughter is a nurse so we went out and we did what we could," she said.

"People were fetching chairs so we could sit the patients down. The police were giving us first aid kits and silver foil blankets because they wanted to help people who were really bad."

Further people have given shelter to neighbours unable to return to their own homes.

Mr Hornby said the community in the area is "very good" and "everybody just went out and did what they could".

To share your story contact caroline.lowbridge@bbc.co.uk

"Angel Namaala, who lives opposite the shop, told the BBC she heard "this big thud, like an earthquake".

She said: "The building had gone down and people were trying to help where they could by taking the bricks off. But the fire was getting bigger and bigger so people were told to leave the scene."

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Media captionAerial footage shows the extent of the blast at a shop in Hinckley Road

Emergency service workers remain at the scene and are being offered drinks and food by a rapid relief team.

A 79-year-old resident, who lives nearby but did not want to be named, said a 15-year-old boy suffered head injuries in the blast.

"Someone brought him a duvet to keep him warm while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Someone also brought him a stool from one of the houses and a chap was bandaging his head. I think he had a cut above his eyes and his back was hurt."

Image copyright Matthew Cane / Leicestershire Fire and Rescue
Image caption Search and rescue crews search through the rubble

'I thought my roof was falling in'

By BBC reporter John Alexander

There was a noise which sounded like the pilot light of a house boiler being lit, a loud whoosh followed by a tremor, like an earthquake.

At first I thought my boiler had exploded or my roof was falling in so ran outside, as did most of my neighbours. Then we were all asked to leave our houses.

I think the shop was usually open until about 22:00, most of the shops are convenience stores and takeaways along the road where the explosion was.

I tried to find out last night when we could get back into our houses and what they thought had caused the blast but they weren't prepared to say. I was told we could return if we wanted at 04:30 and the power has been restored.

The road is still closed and there is a large plume of smoke coming from the building, the fire is still burning.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rescue efforts are still under way as police believe there may be more people unaccounted for

Hinckley Road, from its junction with Bolton Road to its junction with Woodville Road, remains closed in both directions and motorists are advised to avoid the area.

About 28 properties in Hinckley Road were left without electricity following the explosion but power has since been restored, Western Power Distribution said.

Firefighters are expected to be on the site for "a number of days" and it was "still too early to say" what caused the explosion, Mr Cane added.

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