The owner of a shop has described how he escaped from an explosion that killed five people.
The explosion caused a convenience store and the flats above it to collapse.
Aram Kurd, 33, was in the shop at the time. He said had gone to the storeroom at the back of the shop to get some beers for him and an employee, Victoria when he heard a “loud bang”.
He shouted out for Victoria, who had only be working at the store for two days, but has not heard anything from her since.
Speaking to ITV Central, he said: “I was holding her phone at the time of the explosion as we had been watching YouTube videos.
“I don’t know, I really hope that she’s alive. I was shouting Victoria! Victoria! Victoria!
“I don’t know how it happened.
“It was a big noise. I found myself up and then to the floor, for two or three minutes I couldn’t feel anything, I was looking up, my eyes were open.
“I managed to pull himself from the rubble and climbed into the neighbouring garden.”
He said he was unsure about what had happened to the residents of the flat above, but described them as “good people”.
He added: “I think they have two or three kids. There was an old man and old lady.
“Sometimes they would come into my shop.
“I don’t know what happened to them as well. They are good people. I have not heard about them.
“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.
“Forget about the money, the most important [thing] is life.”
Police updated the death toll after finding another body among the rubble before they were forced to pause rescue efforts amid fears a neighbouring property could collapse.
Residents living in the streets off Hinckley Road in Leicester have told how they rushed to help those caught up in a massive blast amid fears that the majority of the casualties could come from the same family.
Krishna Rungen said his brother-in-law and 15-year-old nephew were pulled out of the rubble and are in hospital whilst his sister and her two older sons are still missing along with the girlfriend of one of the sons.
Speaking at the scene, Mr Rungen, 69, from Leicester, who refused to name his family members, said: “As I understand the 15-year-old was pulled out by a passerby and he’s was alright, he’s got a few cuts but he’s ok.
“He is in a daze, he said his mum and his brothers were watching TV and then the next thing he knows bricks were falling over him, and then it was pitch black.
“He was crying for help and somebody just pulled him out of the rubble and wrapped him in a blanket and took him to the hospital.
“He still doesn’t know his family are missing, he thinks they might be injured somewhere but he doesn’t know where they are, neither does the father, I don’t know what to tell then when I go back now.”
He said that he had still not received official confirmation.
Five people remain in hospital, including one in a critical condition.
Residents said the “enormous” explosion shook properties up to 500 metres away and left many people inside houses in neighbouring streets in a state of shock.
Witnesses have described how people were clawing through the rubble in an attempt to look for survivors.
One 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.
The blast took place at the former Western Park Store which changed to Zabka Leicester on January 2. One worker, named only as Victoria, is feared missing.
Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “The area is still closed off and will be for some considerable time. We have traffic diversions in place and these will remain for the foreseeable future.
“We are still waiting to hear what caused this terrible incident, but it looks likely it was a gas explosion.
“We remain in close contact with the police and fire service and await their update on this.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with all of those affected. The city council will continue to do everything it can to support them and the local community to recover from this devastating event.”
A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “Five people are now confirmed to have died following an explosion and fire at a building in Leicester last night.
“Five others were taken to hospital, one of whom remains in a critical condition.
“The rescue work at the scene of the former supermarket in Hinckley Road has been temporarily suspended due to the structural integrity of a neighbouring building, and the search and rescue work will resume shortly.”
Neighbours were seen attempting to pull people from the wrecked building after the explosion at 7pm on Sunday, as firefighters spent seven hours tackling the huge blaze.
Sixty homes were evacuated and surrounding roads were shut as part of the emergency response after the building suffered what firefighters described as a “pancake collapse”.
Tony Hartley, who lives around 50 yards away from the blast site, said: “I was standing in the kitchen and heard a bang so I ran up the road and could see glass everywhere.
Emergency services are dealing with a fire in Hinckley Rd, Leicester. Incident will be the subject of a joint investigation with the fire service. Public asked not to speculate but at this stage there is no indication this is terrorist related.
— LeicestershirePolice (@leicspolice) February 25, 2018
“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.”
— East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (@EMASNHSTrust) February 25, 2018
Mr Hartley, 33, said the boy, thought to be aged between 10 and 13, was able to walk after being freed.
Matt Cane, Group Manager from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Crews have worked through the night, alongside Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service and other partner agencies, tackling the fire and searching the scene in order to locate any further survivors or casualties.
“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.”
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