Rescue efforts under way after deadly Sicily explosion

At least seven people were killed after an explosion caused several buildings to collapse in Ravanusa on the Italian island.

At least three people have been killed in an explosion in the Italian town of Ravanusa [Vigili Del Fuoco/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

At least seven people have been killed after an explosion caused multiple residential buildings to collapse on the Italian island of Sicily.

Sniffer dogs found four bodies in the early hours of Monday, including a nurse that was nine-months pregnant.

Three bodies were found in the night between Saturday and Sunday and two people are still missing, a spokesman for the national fire service said on RAI NEW24 television.

Rescuers, sniffer dogs and a drone have been deployed to locate the missing, Sicily’s regional civil protection unit said.

The local authority confirmed on its Facebook page that seven people were killed in the blast, which affected at least four buildings.

Gas explosion

Authorities said the explosion appeared to have been caused by gas.

Television images showed a mass of rubble, wooden beams and mangled steel in a large empty space in Ravanusa’s centre, with neighbouring buildings charred and damaged.

Local residents in the town of 11,000 people watched on Sunday as fire fighters and civil protection rescuers worked to try to locate survivors.

“It is a small town and everyone knows each other,” said 69 year-old pensioner Arcangelo D’Angelo, adding he knew the missing people.

“What we are living through here is an unimaginable drama and we have no words,” he said.

Italian Firefighters are searching for survivors following a gas explosion in Ravanusa, Sicily [Vigili del Fuoco/AFP]

A “huge shock wave” from the explosion was felt 100 metres (330 feet) away, said Salvatore Cocina, head of Sicily’s civil protection unit.

Authorities have opened an investigation to determine what caused the blast.

“The gas probably found a cavity in which to accumulate,” the head of firefighters in the province of Agrigento, Giuseppe Merendino, told the Rainews24 TV channel.

“This pocket of gas would then have found an accidental trigger: a car, an elevator, an electrical appliance.”

Soon after the explosion, Ravanusa Mayor Carmelo D’Angelo appealed on Facebook for “everyone available who has shovels and bulldozers”.

“There has been a disaster,” he said.

About 50 people have been displaced due to the incident, D’Angelo told Rainews24.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies