At least one person has died after an explosion at a building in St Helier, Jersey Police have said.
A dozen people are said to be missing, including two “walking wounded” treated in hospital.
Emergency services arrived at the scene at Haut du Mont, Pier Road, in the capital in the early hours of Saturday.
Robin Smith, the Jersey States Police chief officer, said firefighters were called to the area the previous night after residents reported the smell of gas.
He said the scene of the explosion was “devastating” and there could be more deaths.
“We have a three-story building that has completely collapsed – described from a demolition perspective as a pancake that has fallen almost straight down,” he said.
“There is also damage in a neighboring building, another building that the firefighters must secure. It’s a pretty devastating scene, I’m sorry to say.
Smith said it would be difficult to properly assess the number of missing people given the condition of the building.
“We’re looking in the area of about a dozen right now. This number could fluctuate, but it is the number at which we operate. »
Asked if the death toll was likely to rise, Smith said: ‘I wouldn’t want to speculate on that sort of thing… but it has to be recognized that we could have more deaths.’
The force had earlier said relatives were being contacted by family liaison officers.
Daniel Hunt, 19, who lives across the bay, said the blast woke him around 4 a.m. and he saw the building in flames.
“My room was rocked by the blast, with the windows banging, which was very unnerving,” he said. “I went out to have a look…I could see what looked like police and firefighters shining torches through the windows of surrounding buildings I guess as they evacuated the area.”
Smith said police would investigate the possibility of safety issues with the gas supply.
Island Energy, the building’s gas supplier, said it was working with firefighters to “understand exactly what happened”.
Jersey Chief Minister Kristina Moore paid tribute to rescuers and said the owners of the building were working to ensure anyone displaced by the blast had accommodation.
She said the area would be under investigation for a few days and offered her condolences to the families involved.
“It is a huge shock to everyone this morning, but first and foremost our condolences go out to the families who are affected and we are all thinking and praying for those who are worried about their loved ones. We all share their concern.