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Five killed in building fire in central England

LEICESTER: A screengrab taken from a video shows a fire burning after an explosion on Sunday. —AFP

LEICESTER: Rescuers yesterday pulled another body from the wreckage of a building fire in the central English city of Leicester, bringing the death toll to five, with five more people still in hospital. An explosion on Sunday evening caused a blaze to rip through a shop and two-storey flat above it, in an incident police said was not related to terrorism. After initially confirming a toll of four, a police spokesman said: “Sadly, in the last few hours, the number of people found dead in the collapsed building has risen to five.”

The number of people being treated in hospital also rose from four to five, one of whom remains in a critical condition. Police said there were still some people unaccounted for, but rescue efforts had to be suspended at one point due to concerns about the structural integrity of a neighboring building. “It may be some days yet before we will be able to establish the probable cause of the explosion,” added Matt Cane, group manager from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service.

Neighbors reported that their own homes shook with the force of the blast, which occurred shortly after 7:00pm (1900 GMT) on Sunday. Firefighters worked through the night to control the blaze, but by early yesterday afternoon, it was still not extinguished. “There are still pockets of fire in the basement area of the building,” Cane said in a statement. “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.”

Electricity to a number of homes nearby was affected, but no properties were evacuated overnight. Pictures and videos posted on social media showed a property engulfed in flames, with rubble and debris scattered around. “It was very scary,” local resident Graeme Hudson told AFP. “I live five minutes away… but my house shook. I went out and saw massive smoke and big flames.”

Another witness, Tahir Khan, who was driving past when it happened, 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.” – AFP

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