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Four people have been taken to hospital in a critical condition after a reported explosion in Leicester, according to the local NHS Trust.

Six fire engines were sent to the scene after members of the public reported a large blast in the area at around 7pm.

A spokeswoman for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said firefighters were on their way to the scene when police told them a building had collapsed.

The building was two-storeys high with a loft conversion and it had suffered a "pancake collapse", she said.

"This is a search and rescue at the moment," she added, saying that there is "no indication" of the cause.

We can confirm that four patients from the scene have been taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary via @EMASNHSTrust in a critical condition. @Leicspolice are advising everyone to avoid the area. Please only attend A&E if absolutely necessary. If not an emergency, please call NHS 111 https://t.co/7uso1OwAJD

— Leicester's Hospitals (@Leic_hospital) February 25, 2018

Additional specialist search and rescue teams have been sent to the scene, including a search and rescue dog from neighbouring Lincolnshire.

:: LIVE: Search and rescue after Leicester 'blast'

Video:Footage of fire after 'explosion' in Leicester

Debris was blasted across both carriageways of the road after the blast, which destroyed a house and a convenience store, according to reports.

People have been evacuated from businesses and homes nearby and taken to a police station for their safety, police said.

I understand there are no early indications that the explosion in Leicester was connected to terrorist activity. Police are investigating.

— Alistair Bunkall (@AliBunkallSKY) February 25, 2018

Resident Kat Pattinson told Sky News: "We were just in the house…about 500m from where the blast has taken place.

"There was a bang and the whole house shook.

"The emergency services were in attendance, there was a lot of smoke, just an awful lot of smoke.

"It was just one event so hopefully, whatever happened, it is in the process of being contained now…the building doesn't appear to be there anymore."

She described the building as "a shop with flats on top of it".

Image from the scene. Pic: Graeme Hudson
Image:Four people have been taken to hospital. Pic: Graeme Hudson

Sky News Correspondent Tom Parmenter said from the scene that damage had been "very very significant" to the main building, a Polish grocery store.

He said the store had been "effectively demolished by the force of the explosion".

Local journalist Laura Scigliano told Sky News: "The smoke is so thick you can feel it in your throat.

"I can't see any flames now – it's just thick smoke."

She added: "I spoke to one lady who heard a massive bang.

"One man said he thought it sounded like a bomb.

"It looks like extensive damage…the building just looks like it has completely collapsed."

She described the road as one of the main routes into the city that was "usually very busy during the day".

They said: "We went to look out of the upstairs windows and saw loads of smoke, and then a few seconds later massive orange flames."

Leicestershire Police said on Twitter: "There has been a major incident on Hinckley Road, Leicester.

"All emergency services are currently dealing with this.

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"Carlisle Street and part of Hinckley Road have been closed. Please avoid the area."

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