Children were in a dance studio just an hour before it was destroyed in an enormous suspected gas explosion.
Witnesses told of their shock that they were able to walk away alive after several buildings collapsed in New Ferry, Wirral, at about 9.15pm on Saturday.
Thirty-four people were injured, two seriously, in the blast which left debris scattered along the street and forced the evacuation of people from the surrounding area to a nearby church.
Restaurant diners told how they tried to help casualties in the aftermath of the explosion.
Helen Hudson said: "There was a man underneath a table who my husband helped to get out.
"It was so frightening, we thought it was a terrorist attack.
"There was blood everywhere and dust everywhere.
"Our ears are still ringing now.
"We didn't know if there would be another explosion so we thought we had to get out and we climbed through the front of the restaurant.
"The men were all helping the women get out and there were women with prams trying to get babies out.
"I can't believe we walked away alive."
Adam Dingwall, 36, caught the sound of the explosion on his dashcam.
The care worker said: "Someone came running from the direction of the noise saying that there had been an explosion and a building had been destroyed.
"Because I'm a first-aider I drove over there while my wife phoned 999.
"When we pulled up we could see that the building was destroyed and someone was lying in the street."
Emergency services rushed to the scene in New Ferry following the blast.
Dan Stephens, chief officer at Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said: "It's what we would describe as a total collapse, or the explosion has blown the walls out, which has caused the roof to collapse.
"It's a very significant debris field and [there is] lots of structural damage to the surrounding buildings."
Two seriously injured people are being cared for at Aintree Hospital.
One woman told ITV News that the force of the blast had shattered the windows out of her house.
She said: "We ran into the hall and the front door had been blown off. We looked outside and all the buildings were demolished. The whole row of the five houses that we live in - all the fronts had gone on them."
ITV Granada Correspondent Andy Bonner at the scene reported seeing a building lying at a 45 degree angle following the explosion.
Nearby residents said they had felt the earth shake from the explosion, which left a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky.
Local MP Alison McGovern tweeted that she was on the scene, saying it was a "very serious situation" and requesting that people stay away from the scene.
Bino Shan, of a convenience store in Bebington Road, said: "I saw one man injured, I think a few people were injured.
"The building is gone, my door is damaged and broken. It's really scary, it was a big explosion but I didn't see any fire. The police said the gas blew up."
A spokeswoman for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service confirmed "a suspected gas explosion resulting in a building collapse".