Seven people have been killed in an explosion at a gas station in County Donegal in Ireland’s northwest, police said on Saturday.
The Garda Siochana police force said eight people had been hospitalized as “the search and recovery for further fatalities continues” at the site in the village of Creeslough.
It said it “can now confirm seven fatalities as a result of this incident — three fatalities were confirmed yesterday (Friday); four fatalities are now confirmed overnight.”
Rescue efforts by Ireland’s emergency services went on through the night after the blast ripped through a petrol station forecourt and a nearby apartment complex.
An aerial photograph taken after the explosion showed the petrol station building destroyed.
Two two-story residential buildings behind had collapsed, while the facade of a similar adjacent building was blown off.
Resident Kieran Gallagher, whose house is about 150 meters from the scene, said the blast sounded like a “bomb.”
“I was in my house at the time and heard the explosion. Instantly I knew it was something — it was like a bomb going off,” he told the BBC.
Many emergency services vehicles remained at the scene overnight, including fire services from both sides of the border with British-run Northern Ireland.
Gardai (Irish police) and civil defense were also involved, and a coastguard helicopter airlifted some of the injured from Letterkenny University Hospital to the Irish capital, Dublin.
‘Shocked and numbed’
Letterkenny University Hospital, some 24 kilometers from the explosion, was placed on an emergency footing to deal with “multiple injuries”, it said in a statement.
Ireland’s premier Micheal Martin said his “thoughts and prayers are today with those who have lost their lives, and those injured in the devastating explosion.”
“People across this island will be numbed by the same sense of shock and utter devastation as the people of Creeslough at this tragic loss of life,” he said.
Martin thanked members of the emergency services who were working non-stop “in extremely traumatic circumstances.”
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, who represents northeast Donegal in the Irish parliament, compared the scenes to events during the decades-long sectarian conflict on the island of Ireland over British rule in Northern Ireland.
“People are shocked and numbed,” McConalogue told Irish broadcaster RTE.
“The scenes from the event are reminiscent of the images from The Troubles years ago, in terms of the scene on the ground and the damage and the debris.”
Creeslough is around 48 kilometers from the border with Northern Ireland and has a population of about 400 people.
The Applegreen service station is on the N56 road, which loops around the northern tip of the Irish republic.
Applegreen tweeted that the news was “devastating”.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the deceased, those who have been injured, and the wider Creeslough community,” said the company.
Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins expressed his “shock” in an official statement.
“This tragedy is a terrible blow to a community that is closely knit and where every loss and injury will be felt by every member of the community and far beyond,” he said.