The death toll has now risen to seven after a massive explosion at a petrol station in Ireland reduced it to rubble.
Sniffer dogs and cranes are part of a search operation that has gone on throughout the night and into Saturday – with rescuers sometimes digging with their bare hands.
The death toll is expected to rise as number of people are still missing and many more injured.
The Irish Garda this morning confirmed another four fatalities overnight after three yesterday in an explosion at an Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal, on Friday afternoon.
The blast destroyed the building and shattered part of an apartment building attached to the complex on the outskirts of the village.
Fire and rescue services from nearby Northern Ireland were drafted in to help deal with the tragedy.
The mayor of Derry said that the incident, which occurred at around 3pm on Friday, was a gas explosion. The impact caused adjacent apartment buildings to collapse, sparking a search and rescue operation with nervous locals watching on.
Nearby Letterkenny University Hospital moved to major emergency standby with eight people admitted after ‘a serious incident involving multiple injured people requiring immediate attention’.
They appealed to the public not to attend its emergency department unless it is urgent.
The death toll has risen to seven with more people missing after a horror petrol station explosion ripped through a quiet Irish village on Friday
Emergency workers in a cherry picker continue to search for the injured and missing at daybreak this morning on Saturday
Emergency services and first responders worked throughout the night to sift the rubble – sometimes with their bare hands – in search of survivors
The Irish Garda this morning confirmed seven fatalities in an explosion at an Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal, Friday afternoon
Seven people have died with police still searching through rubble with cranes and sniffer dogs
A major incident has been declared after a gas explosion at a petrol station in County Donegal, north-western Ireland
Creeslough is a tiny village in the north of the republic about 30 miles from the border with the United Kingdom and 15 miles from Letterkenny, the nearest town.
A major emergency response operation involving first responders from both sides of the Irish border extended through the night and continued on Saturday morning.
Rubble was being moved on to trailers and hauled from the scene.
Two rescue workers were on a raised platform above the site of the explosion and a digger was working through the debris.
Among those gathered at the cordon on Friday night were relatives of people believed to have been in the buildings at the time.
Local hotels also announced late on Friday evening that they were no longer taking bookings as they offered their rooms out to emergency services working throughout the night.
Some people were being treated in hospital yesterday evening while others remain ‘trapped’ at the scene, according to Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty on Friday night.
Irish Premier Micheal Martin last night said his ‘thoughts and prayers’ were with the community and those who lost their lives in the tragic blast.
Dramatic pictures last night showed homes above the Ulster petrol station and convenience store left almost entirely hollowed out by the blast.
In a statement the Irish police force, An Garda Siochana, said: ‘An Garda Siochana continue to assist other emergency services at the scene of a serious ongoing incident that occurred at approximately 3:20pm on Friday, 7th October, 2022, at a premises on the N56 at Creeslough, County Donegal.
‘This emergency response has been led by the Donegal County Council Fire Service with assistance by An Garda Siochana, the National Ambulance Service, Irish Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Rescue 118 Helicopter, Irish Air Corps Medivac 112, Northern Ireland Ambulance HEMS, Irish Community Air Ambulance (Ground Crew), Northern Ireland Urban Search and Rescue, Meavagh Fire Service, Donegal Mountain Rescue, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service HART team (Hazardous Area Response Team) and the Donegal County Council Civil Defence.
‘At this time, An Garda Siochana can confirm there has been three fatalities as a result of this serious incident.
‘This continues to be an ongoing operation and An Garda Siochana are not in a position to provide further information on casualties at this time.
‘An Garda Siochana continue to request that any road users intending to travel to the Creeslough area for any reason consider alternative routes as emergency services continue to deal with this ongoing incident.’
Emergency search operation continues more than seven hours after the initial blast. Pictured: A crane assists in the search and rescue operation late on Friday
Horror images taken by passersby showed the damage at the Applegreen filling station in Creeslough
Multiple emergency service vehicles attended and a Coastguard helicopter also provided support. The NI Fire Service, Air Ambulance and paramedics from Northern Ireland dashed over the border to assist emergency services.
Brendan O’Connor, president of the Garda Representative Association, paid tribute to the fontline workers who ‘dug with their bare hands’ through the night.
He said: ‘I’ve never seen anything like the effort put in by the emergency services, north and south, those that dug with their bare hands, those who drove machines, and those who fed and watered us.
‘We have lost so many members of this small community that there really are no words.’
The Shandon Hotel in nearby Marblehill also announced it had stopped taking bookings for the night as it is making free rooms available for members of the emergency services.
Local Gardaí police and the National Ambulance Service (NAS) urged locals to avoid the area.
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said his thoughts were with those affected by the ‘tragic events’.
The Tánaiste tweeted: ‘Terrible news from Donegal tonight. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic events and with the emergency services responding.’
Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister last night said he was thinking and praying for the community of Creeslough and across Donegal.
In a tweet that was subsequently deleted, Josepha Madigan, the Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education cast suspicion on the cause of the blast, which was confirmed by the mayor to be an accidental gas explosion.
‘I hope no one is injured and they find the culprits,’ the minister tweeted.
‘One hopes this isn’t deliberate but it is yet to be clarified.’
Simon Coveney tweeted: ‘Thinking of and praying for the community of Cresslough and across Donegal tonight.
‘Such a shocking and tragic day, continuing into tonight.
‘Thank you to all emergency teams working together through the night.’
TD Pearse Doherty told RTE News that it was after 3pm when the ‘devastating’ explosion took place that has left ‘a very very dark cloud’ over the community.
‘It ripped right through this building, and this was a very busy location at that point in time,’ he said, explaining that the site holds the petrol station, deli counter, post office, shop and hairdressers for the area.
He said: ‘There’s just quiet, it’s surreal. People are just holding on for hope, holding on to hear news, positive news coming from the emergency services.’
Homes above the Ulster petrol station and convenience store were pictured hollowed out by the blast
Rubble covered the ground as members of the public searched the scene for injured people
Local councillor Donal Mandy Kelly said the news was ‘devastating’.
He added: ‘My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.’
Independent Donegal councillor John O’Donnell said he was praying there were no fatalities.
‘What we’re hearing is there’s just absolute carnage in Creeslough at the moment, there’s a massive gas explosion,’ he told BBC Radio Ulster.
‘The feedback I’m getting from family and friends who are unfortunately down at the scene and in the area is just that the whole place is chaos at the minute, everybody’s very, very taken back and devastated of what’s happening.’
Multiple emergency service vehicles are in attendance and a Coastguard helicopter was also providing support
Local Gardaí police and the National Ambulance Service (NAS) urged locals to avoid the area
Fianna Fail councillor Anthony Molloy said it is ‘beyond words’ as he knows the family who own the service station.
‘My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved,’ Mr Molloy said.
‘It looks horrific from what I can see from photographs. It looks terrible. It’s just terrible.
‘I know the family. It’s beyond words.’
An Garda Siochana asked motorists travelling towards Creeslough to consider alternative routes.
An Garda Siochana asked motorists travelling towards Creeslough to consider alternative routes
Some people remain ‘trapped’ in the rubble, according to Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty
The NAS wrote: ‘A number of ambulances are attending the scene of a serious incident at a service station in Creeslough, Co Donegal.
‘Please avoid this area at the moment if possible.’
The Irish Coast Guard added at around 5pm: ‘The Irish Coast Guard is assisting emergency services at the scene of a major incident in Creeslough Co. Donegal.
‘The Sligo based Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118 and the Mulroy Coast Guard team are assisting the operation.’