Three people were killed and several others injured after a large explosion destroyed a building in the centre of Madrid, according to authorities.
Addressing reporters, the Spanish capital’s Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said that an 85-year-old woman and man died in the blast, which occurred at Toledo Street close to the emblematic Plaza Mayor just before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, reports Xinhua news agency. Later in the day, government delegate in Madrid, Jose Manuel Franco, confirmed that a third person had died, while another was “missing”.
The missing person is understood to have been working on the building’s heating system when the explosion occurred.
Among the dozen people reported to have suffered injuries was a man, aged 26, who was in “moderately serious” condition, and a man in his 50s, who suffered “light” head injuries, and others sustained minor cuts and bruises.
Although the cause of the explosion is yet to be confirmed by the Fire Brigade, Martinez-Almeida explained that a gas leak was the most likely cause. The explosion completely destroyed the top three floors and damaged the remaining floors of the six-storey building where it occurred.
Nine fire engines and 11 ambulances were sent to the scene.
Rescue teams are using dogs to search for any other possible victims, but they have been unable to enter the building, which is still on fire.
Speaking on state TV network RTVE, witnesses explained how the walls had suddenly fallen in on them with no warning at all.
Many of those affected by the blast have been sheltered in nearby bars and restaurants, while a nearby hotel has also offered its rooms.
The surrounding streets were strewn with rubble and several vehicles were damaged by falling masonry. The number of casualties was initially feared to be a lot higher given that the building where the explosion occurred is situated next to a nursing home for the elderly and a school. But early reports suggested that nobody in those buildings was hurt.