At least 5 dead in building blast in Leicester, Britain

At least five people were confirmed dead Monday in an explosion that caused a building collapse in Leicester, Britain, police said.

Emergency personnel walk at the scene of a deadly explosion in Leicester, Britain, late Sunday. Photo by Tim Keeton/EPA-EFE
Emergency personnel walk at the scene of a deadly explosion in Leicester, Britain, late Sunday. Photo by Tim Keeton/EPA-EFE

Five others were taken to the hospital, one critically injured, police said in a statement.

“We believe there may be people who have not yet been accounted for and rescue efforts continue in order to locate any further casualties,” Leicestershire Superintendent Shane O’Neill said.

Rescue work was temporarily suspended in the area due to the structural integrity of a neighboring building.

Matt Cane, a group manager at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said it may be “some days” before investigators identify the cause of the explosion.

“Crews have worked through the night, alongside police, East Midlands Ambulance Service and other partner agencies, tackling the fire and searching the scene in order to locate any further survivors or casualties,” Cane said.

“There are still pockets of fire in the basement area of the building. We have a significant number of specialist search-and-rescue teams who are supported by two search dogs, and this level of resourcing is likely to be in place throughout the day.”

The Leicestershire Police Department said in a statement investigators did not believe the blast was terror-related at this time.

The blast occurred at 7 p.m. local time on Sunday in the central England city, located east of Birmingham.

Resident Angel Namaala told the BBC she heard “this big thud, like an earthquake.”

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

Electrical damage from the blast affected several homes, but no neighboring properties were evacuated.

Witness Tahir Khan told the Guardian she was driving by the building when the blast happened.

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

By Ray Downs and Sara Shayanian