Two people have died and at least two more have been injured after an explosion in central Madrid devastated a church-owned building in the Spanish capital, the city’s mayor has said.
In videos posted on social media smoke can be seen rising from a multi-storey building that appears to have been gutted by the explosion.
Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida has confirmed a fire is still blazing inside the partially collapsed building, complicating any rescue efforts.
The property is owned by the Church of the Virgen de la Paloma, with one neighbour saying it is used to provide residential training for priests while also serving as a base to provide meals for the homeless.
Mr Martinez-Almeida added that initial information pointed to a gas leak as the likely cause of the explosion on Toledo Street in the city’s La Latina neighbourhood.
Madrid’s emergency services said rescue teams, firefighters and police have attended the scene less than 200 metres from local landmark the Puerta de Toledo.
They added that they had treated several people injured in the blast, while a witness told Telemadrid broadcaster that there was at least one person who may still be trapped inside.
“The priests who live on the fifth and sixth floors are fine. We are trying to locate a volunteer who works with us,” Madrid’s vicar general Avelino Revilla told Telemadrid.
A nursing home near the site of the the explosion has since been evacuated, with no injuries reported among its residents who have sinced been moved to a hotel across the street.
A nearby school was believed to be empty at the time of the explosion, having remained closed following a recent spell of record snowfall across the region.
Nearby resident Leire Reparaz, 24, who heard the blast said: “We didn’t know where the sound came from. We all thought it was from the school.
“We went up the stairs to the top of our building and we could see the structure of the building and lots of grey smoke.”
Additional reporting by agencies