1. ITV Report

Man searching for missing family after huge explosion in Leicester

  • Video report by ITV News Midlands Reporter Ben Chapman

The relative of a family group missing after a huge explosion that destroyed a building in Leicester wept as he said he was still waiting to find out if his loved ones were among at least five dead.

Krishna Rungen said his brother-in-law's wife and two eldest sons have not been seen since the blast at the Western Park Stores building at around 7pm on Sunday evening.

The couple's youngest son, aged 15, remains in hospital after he was pulled free by a passerby. He has not yet been told that his family are missing, Mr Rungen said.

He told ITV News: "He's in a daze. He said his mum was there, his brother was there, and next thing bricks were falling over him and it was pitch dark. He was crying for help and somebody pulled him out."

At least five people are known to have died in the explosion. Five others were were taken to hospital with injuries, including one person who is in a critical condition.

Emergency services fear more people may still be inside the building.

They were forced to temporarily halt the search when a wall threatened to collapse, but said they were able to resume looking for possible survivors and victims by Monday night.

Mr Rungen said the family are "devastated" and desperately searching for news. Police have not yet given them an update or told them if the family are thought to be among the dead or missing, he said.

Aerial footage shows the shop on Hinckley Road and the first floor flat were both completely demolished.

The owner of the convenience store on the ground floor of the building described how he was thrown into the air by the blast.

Aram Kurd storeroom at the back of the shop when he heard a huge blast.

He said: "I don’t know how it happened...Like, big noise.

"As long as I can remember, I found myself [thrown] up to that high, then to the floor.

"For two or three minutes, I couldn’t feel anything.

"I was looking up, my eyes were open. I didn’t know if I was breathing or not."

Mr Kurd said he eventually managed to clamber out of the ruins, but he fears for his shop assistant Victoria who was in the main shop area.

He said that he shouted out for Victoria, who had only be working at the store for two days, but has not heard anything from her since.

"I don't know, I really hope that she's alive," Mr Kurd said.

He also said that he was unsure about what had happened to the residents of the flat above, describing them as "good people".

"I feel sorry for those people who lost their lives. I don't know if they are kids or young. I don't know who's dead."

Mr Kurd, who has managed the business for only two months, said he was "in shock" following the incident and that he did not know whether he would be able to rebuild his business.

"Forget about the money, the most important [thing] is life," he 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.

A "search and rescue" operation is continuing following the blast on Sunday night which neighbours said had caused whole houses to shake.

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Emergency services remained at the site of the blast on Monday morning, after fire crews worked through the night digging through rubble and battling the blaze.

The blast is currently not being linked with terrorism, police said.

Video taken at the scene on Hinckley Road showed flames billowing into the night sky as the fire engulfed what is believed to be a convenience store.

Multiple 999 calls were made to fire services around 7pm reporting an explosion on Hinckley Road, which was eventually evacuated.

Emergency services worked through the night tackling the blaze Credit: PA

Witnesses said that the explosion caused neighbouring houses to shake from the blast.

Angel Namala was evacuated from her home after the explosion which she said shook her house like an "earthquake".

She said she saw bodies of the wounded including one of a 15-year-old boy.

"I was in my house and then I heard this big thug," she said. "I saw the building was collapsed.

"I did try to help where I could and then all of a sudden the flames started coming."

"I saw someone's body on the floor," she added. "I found another victim there, a few people around and myself tried to help him. He was a 15-year-old boy. We made sure we were with him until the ambulances came."

Another witness, John Alexander, described the explosion as "low, like a release of air rather than a boom" that caused "shook through the house".

He said: "It actually felt as though the house was going to come down on top of [me]."

He added: "The shop was destroyed, debris and rubble strewn across all four carriageways.

"There was somebody trapped under what was left of the shop and there were people actively trying to move and clear debris to get to him and get him out. And then he appeared to need resuscitation down the road."

Witness Tahir Khan said: "I was driving past when it happened.

"Loads of people were gathered and there was gas and flames coming out of the building.

"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."

Tahir Khan said the side of the building had been blown out.

Six fire engines were dispatched and a search and rescue operation initiated, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue said initially.

Matt Cane, Group Manager from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said emergency staff have worked through the night to locate further survivors or casualties.

He added: "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.

"It may be some days yet before we will be able to establish the probable cause of the explosion."

Five people have been taken to hospital following the blast.

A Leicestershire Police spokesperson said: "The report was made just after 7pm this evening and a number of neighbouring buildings in Hinckley Road were also damaged as a result.

"Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service are dealing with the incident and Hinckley Road between Mostyn Street and Carlisle Street has been closed off.

"Businesses and homes in the immediate vicinity have been evacuated and those affected have been taken to Hinckley Road police station as a temporary measure.

"The cause of the explosion will be the subject of a joint investigation by the police and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service."

Electricity supply has been cut off for a number of properties in the Hinckley Road area while emergency services deal with the incident.

One witness described how a group of men who ran to the scene lifted a girder off an adult casualty and turned to help a boy, who then managed to get to his feet.

Tony Hartley, who lives around 50 yards away from the blast site, told the Press Association: "Me and a friend lifted up a steel girder with about five other blokes and removed a bloke from underneath it.

"We then turned round, saw rubble and heard a little boy crying.

"There was me and another bloke sifting through the rubble and we managed to pull the boy out.

"I said to him, 'Is there anybody else in there?' and he said, 'My friend's a metre back inside the building' and that's when the emergency services turned up."

Mr Hartley, 33, said the boy, thought to be aged between 10 and 13, was able to walk after being freed.

Sadly, in the last few hours, the number of people found dead in the collapsed building has risen to five.

Superintendent Shane O’Neill said: "We know the explosion and subsequent fire will have caused considerable concern to residents and business owners in the area and we would like to thank people for their support and patience while teams continue with their work at the scene.

"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."

Anyone concerned about family members are advised to contact 101.