Seven confirmed dead following explosion at petrol station
The Garda has not provided any information as to the suspected cause of the explosion.
The death toll from an explosion at an Irish petrol station has risen to seven as search efforts continue for further victims.
Friday afternoon’s blast in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal, ripped through the Applegreen service station and convenience store and adjacent buildings.
Having announced three fatalities on Friday night, the Irish police force, An Garda Siochana, confirmed a further four deaths in a statement on Saturday morning.
The Garda said a search and recovery operation for “further fatalities” was continuing.
“An Garda Siochana can now confirm seven fatalities as a result of this incident – three fatalities were confirmed yesterday; four fatalities are now confirmed overnight,” it said.
“The search and recovery for further fatalities continues.
“Eight persons were transferred to hospital for medical attention yesterday.”
A major emergency response operation involving first responders from both sides of the Irish border extended through the night and was continuing on Saturday morning.
Among those gathered at the cordon on Friday night were relatives of people believed to have been in the buildings at the time.
Sniffer dogs are being used amid the rubble. At one point on Friday night all machinery was turned off and onlookers were asked to remain completely silent as rescue workers attempted to detect survivors beneath the debris.
Irish premier Micheal Martin said Friday was the “darkest of days” for Donegal and Ireland.
“My thoughts and prayers are today with those who have lost their lives, and those injured in the devastating explosion in Creeslough,” said the Taoiseach.
“I wish to express my deepest sympathies to their family and friends, and to the entire community of Creeslough, on this 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.
“I would like to thank all the members of the emergency services, from across the north west and Northern Ireland, who responded so quickly to the scene, and who are working throughout the night in extremely traumatic circumstances.”
The Garda has not provided any information on the suspected cause of the explosion.
Local priest John Joe Duffy said the community was “numb and devastated”.
“We’re just broken-hearted, everyone is broken-hearted, we’re lost for words,” he told the PA news agency at the scene.
“What I’m appealing for is for the prayers of the people across this county and across the country, to pray for us, to help us and to give us strength to get through these difficult hours and difficult days that may lay ahead.”
Donegal TD Joe McHugh said friends and families of people feared missing were going through a very difficult waiting period.
“We’re just waiting here, my sympathies and thoughts are with a lot of families here and their friends and loved ones, there is a very difficult waiting period now,” he told PA.
Multiple emergency service vehicles remain at the scene.
On Friday night a coastguard helicopter airlifted some of those who were injured in the blast from Letterkenny University Hospital to Dublin.
Northern Ireland’s air ambulance was also deployed, as were fire crews and ground ambulances from the region.
Letterkenny hospital appealed to the public not to attend its emergency department unless it was urgent.
The hospital initiated its major emergency standby protocol earlier on Friday. It stood down the protocol late on Friday night.
In a statement, the hospital said: “The hospital continues to treat those injured in the incident at Creeslough, Co Donegal, and remains on hand to provide all necessary medical assistance required.”
Applegreen Ireland directing manager Fiona Matthews said the company was “deeply saddened and shocked to learn the devastating news that lives have been lost in today’s tragic incident”.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the deceased, those who have been injured, and the wider Creeslough community,” she said.
“Creeslough is a small village and the supermarket and Applegreen outlet operated by our local partners there are at the heart of the community.
“Like the rest of Ireland, tonight we stand in solidarity with that community.”
Ireland’s deputy premier Leo Varadkar described the incident as “tragic”.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Varadkar wrote: “Terrible news from Donegal tonight.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic events and with the emergency services responding.”
Nina Gabel, 35, who was at the cordon on Friday evening, described distressing scenes.
“There was one woman who didn’t know where her daughter was and she was very upset,” she told PA.
“There are emergency services everywhere, there were so many gardai and fire engines.
“What looked like local farmers’ tractors were helping to dig out the rubble.”
A local hotel stopped taking bookings from members of the public on Friday to ensure all spare rooms were held for first responders.