Leicester explosion: Rescue search for survivors suspended

The store and the home above it were completely destroyed in the explosion on Sunday night, Picture: Tristan Potter/SWNS
The store and the home above it were completely destroyed in the explosion on Sunday night, Picture: Tristan Potter/SWNS
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The death toll from an explosion at a building in Leicester has now risen to five as police said the rescue operation has been suspended.

Five other people were taken to hospital, one of them in a critical condition, Leicestershire Police said.

Officers believe there may still be people unaccounted for, but emergency crews have had to temporarily halt a search and rescue operation at the site on Hinckley Road because of the structural integrity of a neighbouring building.

Matt Cane, group manager from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, 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. It may be some days yet before we will be able to establish the probable cause of the explosion.”

Gas network Cadent said the supply had been isolated and establishing the cause of the fire would be a matter for emergency services.

Superintendent Shane O’Neill, of Leicestershire Police, said: “There are now five confirmed fatalities 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.

“Although the cause of the explosion is not yet known, there is no evidence that this is 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 on Sunday night and police declared a major incident.

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

The shop had recently become a Polish supermarket called Zabka. It is believed to have only been trading since the new year.

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

“I heard a big bang, I thought, ‘What was that?’ and found myself on the floor … my body was half covered in rubble … Everywhere I could see fire.”

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