TEN people have been confirmed dead after a service station was blown apart in a horror explosion yesterday.
Four men, three women, two teens and a little girl of "primary school age" died in the tragedy at the Applegreen petrol station in Creeslough, Co Donegal, it has been confirmed.
A further seven deaths were confirmed by gardai today.
Eight people, including children, have been brought to hospital to be treated for their injuries.
Gardai said a search and recovery operation for "further fatalities" is continuing.
A spokesman earlier said: "An Garda Siochana continue to work with other emergency services at the scene of a serious ongoing incident that occurred at approximately 3:20pm on Friday, 7th October, 2022, at a premises on the N56 at Creeslough, County Donegal.
"Gardaí and emergency services remain at the scene in a search and recovery phase of this operation.
"An Garda Siochana can now confirm nine fatalities as a result of this incident. The search and recovery for further fatalities continues.
"No spokesperson for Emergency Services is available at this time.
"An Garda Síochána continue to request that any road users intending to travel to the Creeslough area for any reason consider alternative routes as Emergency Services continue to deal with this ongoing incident.
"Traffic diversions remain in place at this time."
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The frantic search for survivors continued throughout the night with specialist equipment and lights brought in to help rescuers carrying out the distressing hunt.
Sniffer dogs are also being used in the major operation.
Workers stopped machinery and blew whistles in a bid to hear survivors in the debris at around 10.30pm.
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins this morning said people have been left shocked and saddened by the news of the blast – and told how "all of our thoughts" are with those affected.
He said in a statement: “May I, as President, express what I know will be the shock shared by all people throughout the country on learning of the terrible tragedy which has unfolded in Creeslough, Co Donegal.
"All of our thoughts must go out to all of those who have been affected. Those who have received news of the loss of a loved one, those injured and, most of all, those who are waiting with anxiety for news of their loved ones.
"This tragedy is a terrible blow to a community that is closely knit and where every loss and injury will be felt by every member of the community and far beyond.
"Special tribute must be paid to those members of the local community and emergency services across the island who have reacted so swiftly to the scene of the explosion and have continued to work through the night.
"All of our best thoughts and prayers go to those who have lost their lives and their families.
"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha."
'VERY DARK DAY'
Applegreen Founder and Chief Executive Joe Barrett said yesterday was a "very dark day" for Ireland.
He said: “Yesterday was a very dark day for Creeslough, for Donegal, for Ireland, and for all of us in the wider Applegreen family.
“This is a hugely tragic event, and I would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased, and to the entire community in Creeslough.
“We are utterly shocked and saddened at what happened yesterday. I would also like to offer our thanks to the emergency services, and first responders, who are dealing with the incident."
Barrett said they are providing their local partners with support and assistance.
He added: “We have been working with our local partners in Creeslough since 2014. We are providing them with assistance and support locally at this very difficult time.
“The Applegreen in Creeslough is at the very heart of the village and contains the local post office and supermarket.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of Creeslough. Today we mourn those who have lost their lives alongside the entire country. We will continue to assist and support our partners, and the wider Creeslough community, in the days and weeks ahead.”
Prayers have been said in the local church in Creeslough for the families and all those affected by the explosion.
Fr John Joe Duffy asked the congregation gathered at St Michael's Church to pray for all those suffering this morning.
He said: "From our hearts, with all our hearts and with all our souls we pray for those who have died, we pray for those who were injured, we pray for all who were involved… we pray for those who are there continuing to help and have helped since yesterday.
"We pray also for those family members who are bereaved and we pray for those who still are waiting news.
"We keep them all very much in our hearts."
He added: "Let us pray god's peace in all our hearts and all our souls and for those suffering most this morning."
The explosion, at about 3pm on Friday, shook nearby buildings and caused walls and ceilings to collapse.
And in the chaotic scenes that followed, people trapped inside their homes tried to contact loved ones who were fearing the worst.
Emergency services began getting urgent calls shortly after 3pm and raced to the Applegreen outlet.
Soon after, three helicopters flew in to aid gardai and paramedics in the battle to save those caught in the suspected gas explosion.
As the injured Aid help blast were being airlifted, Letterkenny University Hospital launched "major emergency standby" procedures.
It said it was facing "a serious incident involving multiple injured people requiring immediate attention".
On request, the Coast Guard cleared a helicopter landing zone in Phoenix Park, Dublin, as part of the emergency operation.
As news of the explosion swept through the area, locals arrived to help dig through the rubble.
Some chunks of masonry had smashed on to cars while windows in buildings were blown to bits.
The service station was located at the entrance to the village in a complex with a number of other businesses, including a hairdressing salon.
Several families are housed in apartments above the business.
Large parts of the facade of the complex were ripped off with roofs and solar blankets to victims panels falling into the rubble.
Inside, passersby could see beds and pictures on walls.
The time of the horror explosion coincided with the return home of schoolchildren, many of whom finish early on a Friday afternoon.
One man who lives a kilometre from the scene said he was thrown from his seat as he worked at his desk.
He said: "I couldn't believe the power of it and I didn't know what had happened. We drove into town and it was just carnage.
"There was no ambulances or gardai at the scene because it had literally just happened. I saw one person on the ground and they looked as if they were dead.
"Miraculously we saw another man in the upstairs apartment and he actually wasn't injured at all and he came down on a ladder."
Nina Gabel, 35, told of seeing "one woman who didn't know where her daughter was and was very upset".
She added: "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."
Donegal Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said some people had been trapped inside their apartments after the "devastating" blast.
He said it was like "your worst nightmare".
He said: "It is very sombre, there's silent prayers being said, there are people still trapped in the building and the emergency services are doing everything they can to remove the rubble.
"This is a dark, dark cloud for the entire community."
To support the rescue efforts, The Shandon Hotel in nearby Marblehill stopped taking bookings for the night to keep rooms free for members of the emergency services.
Local independent councillor John O'Donnell said Army, RNLI and mountain rescue helicopters were at the scene while the Irish Coast Guard was also involved. He said people "are very seriously injured".
Describing the area as being "chaos at the minute", he added: "Everybody is very taken aback and devastated.
"There is a large-scale rescue operation on the way and it is something we haven't seen in the area in my lifetime."
Former Minister for Education and Fine Gael Deputy Joe McHugh, who lives in nearby Carrigart and went to the explosion site, said: "There is a numbness here and people are simply in a state of shock. It's a waiting game now.''
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