Ireland: Nine dead after Donegal explosion at petrol station

Ireland: Nine dead after Donegal explosion at petrol station
Nine people are confirmed to have died after a huge explosion occurred at a petrol station in Ireland's County Donegal.
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Gardaí (Irish police) said three fatalities were confirmed on Friday and four were confirmed overnight [source: Getty]

At least nine people were killed in an explosion at a petrol station in a small village in northwest Ireland, police said Saturday, as emergency workers combed piles of rubble for more victims.

The explosion happened shortly after 3 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) at the Applegreen petrol station on the outskirts of the village of Creeslough. Police said earlier on Saturday that eight more people were receiving treatment in the hospital. They have not addressed the cause of the explosion.

“(It's) a shocking toll and there will be more, and it’s a search operation now and we hope and pray," said Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin. 

Irish police said four people were confirmed dead overnight, adding to the initial toll of three from Friday's explosion in Creeslough, County Donegal. Eight people are in hospitals and several people are unaccounted for after a blast tore through the Applegreen service station in the community of about 400 people.

“The search and recovery for further fatalities continues, said the police force, An Garda Siochana. The cause of the blast is under investigation.

Emergency responders from Ireland and neighboring Northern Ireland are involved in what police said was now a “search and recovery” operation. Sniffer dogs combed the debris, and a mechanical digger lifted piles of rubble from the site.

The explosion leveled the petrol station building, which holds the main shop and post office for the village, and damaged an adjacent residential building.

The prime minister said it was one of the “darkest of days for Donegal and the entire country”.

“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,” Martin said.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, who represents Donegal in Ireland's parliament, said the service station was well known across the country because of its prominent position on the main N56 road, and was “the heart” of the local community.

“People are shocked and numbed,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE. “People have been rallying together and everyone’s concern is with the families of those who have lost their loved ones and how they can support them in the days ahead."