Suspected gas blast injures 32 and destroys two buildings
A LARGE explosion has demolished a building in Merseyside, near the British city of Liverpool, with a hail of bricks and debris injuring 32 people nearby.
The explosion happened in the Wirral area of Merseyside about 9.15pm local time (8.15am Sydney time).
Two people are reportedly in a serious condition, with a further 30 'walking wounded' having been admitted to hospital or treated at the scene for more minor injuries.
Reports and social media pictures from the scene show the streets littered with debris and bricks.
"It is all completely rubble," Liverpool Echo reporter Josh Parry said.
Heavy scenes from over the water in new ferry pic.twitter.com/n98gh5FdbZ— M.L4_1878 (@M_A_L4) March 25, 2017
Merseyside Fire Services have told local media that the blast has devastated an area some 50 meters by 40 meters. Two buildings have appear to have been demolished.
"They have collapsed in a suspected explosion due to a gas leak," a fire spokeswoman said.
"Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service currently have four appliances and a special rescue team on the scene and police and ambulance service are also in attendance."
Eight appliances are in attendance, the fire service says, and special rescue teams have been called to search the rubble.
ITV Granada reporter Andy Bonner reports from the scene that he has seen a building lying at a 45 degree angle following the explosion.
Fire personnel have been surveying the site.
The blast appears to have affected a dance studio, Complete Works, and a Chinese restaurant, Lan's House.Liverpool Echor eporter Josh Parry initially tweeted 15 people appeared to have been injured inside the restaurant alone.
Witnesses report wounded being walked and wheel to ambulances amid the rubble.
Here's the rubble from the dance studio. Absolutely obliterated. Devastating. pic.twitter.com/3ueZayAF4T— Josh Parry (@JoshParryECHO) March 25, 2017
'It was like a warzone, I couldn't believe it,' one person who was near the blast told the Liverpool Echo.
"Our daughter ran in and ducked for cover like there was gunfire. It was terrifying we didn't know what was going on," another said, describing the sound of rubble and dust crashing on the roof.
The explosion shook the ground and sent a huge plume of smoke and dust into the sky.
The blast disrupted the rail line between Birkenhead Central and Ellesmere Port/Chester. All services were temporarily halted until engineers inspected the line.
The member of parliament representing Wirral South, Alison McGovern, has tweeted: "Am on the scene in New Ferry. A very serious situation. Please stay away if you can, let emergency services do their job."
An emergency shelter has been established by the Wirral council for residents 'displaced' by the blast. Nearby homes have been evacuated amid fears further blasts are possible.