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Britain

Five dead after blast destroys shop and home in UK city of Leicester

Police say there was no immediate indication that the explosion was linked to terrorism

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 3:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 11:02pm

Leicestershire police on Monday said five people died in an explosion at a property in Leicester on Sunday evening UK time, while up to six others were sent to hospital.

The death toll was four until a fifth body was pulled out of the destroyed building nearly a day after the explosion.

The blast destroyed a shop and a house in the central English city, officials said. The Leicester Mercury said the shop was a Polish grocery called Zabka Leicester and above it was a two-floor flat.

“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 police superintendent Shane O’Neill said.

Pictures and videos posted on social media showed flames leaping into the sky from the site which was reduced to rubble.

Police said there was no indication the explosion was linked to terrorism.

“The cause of the explosion will be the subject of a joint investigation by the police and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service,” local police said in a statement. “We would ask that the media and public do not speculate about the circumstances surrounding the incident, but at this stage there is no indication this is terrorist related.”

The explosion was on a stretch of road containing residential and commercial properties, including a kebab shop, and is close to the city centre.

Police said a number of buildings near the burning one were damaged.

Neighbours near the building were evacuated as a precaution and taken to a nearby police station.

The electricity supply to a number of properties in the area was cut while emergency services deal with the incident, police said. Major roads in the area were closed.

The Fire and Rescue Service said it received calls soon after 7pm from the public reporting an explosion and a building fire.

It immediately dispatched six fire engines, a spokeswoman said.

“We were en route when the police called to say a building had collapsed,” she said.

Additional specialist units were then dispatched, including a search and rescue dog, according to the spokeswoman.

“We’ve got no indication of what the cause is at this moment,” the spokeswoman said.

Six people were taken by ambulance to Leicester Royal Infirmary hospital following the incident, according to University Hospitals of Leicester, which runs three area medical facilities.

“Two of these patients are in a critical condition,” it said on Twitter.

Officials had earlier advised people only to attend the accident and emergency department “if absolutely necessary”.

The fire service spokeswoman also said representatives from gas and electricity companies were at the scene – a standard procedure.

Witness Graeme Hudson said he lives close to the scene and felt the blast.

“It was very scary,” he said. “I live five minutes away … but my house shook. I went out and saw massive smoke and big flames ... [I] didn’t stay for long there because [I felt] unsafe for my 11-year-old son.”

One neighbour told Sky News she lives 457m (500 yards) away and felt her flat shake with the explosion.

Firefighters worked through the night to control the blaze, which tore through the building.

Leicester is 177km (110 miles) north of London.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters