Three members of an Indian-origin family were named missing and feared dead in an explosion and subsequent fire that claimed five lives in Leicester city, United Kingdom, on Feb. 25, Leicester Mercury reported. Three men were arrested in connection with the explosion in which five people died, and five others were admitted to hospital.
Mary Ragoobeer, 46 and her two sons — 18-year old Shane and 17-year-old Sean — who had moved to the United Kingdom from Mauritius are among the people who are feared dead in the fire that accompanied the blast that rocked the Hinckley Road neighborhood like an “earthquake,” as per witness accounts.
The affected property was a two-floor building, the first floor of which was a Polish supermarket while the second floor housed apartments. The flats suffered, according to the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman, “a pancake collapse.” There were at least two workers inside, one of whom is believed to be 22-year-old Viktorija Ljevleva. Shane’s girlfriend, 18-year-old Leah Beth Reek, is also missing.
According to Hardeep Singh, the Indian-origin owner of the building affected by the inferno, the Ragoobeer family had moved into the flat, which was above the supermarket, around a year ago. “I called Jose after I heard about the blast. He was at work and he was safe, but I don’t know about the rest of the family. There was a gas boiler in the flat, in the bathroom at the back of the property, and a gas cooker,” he was quoted as saying by the Mirror.
According to the police, while human remains of five people were recovered from the wreckage, it will take considerable time before the bodies can be formally identified due to the devastation caused by the explosion and subsequent fire.
“The relatives of all five missing people have been informed and are being supported by specially-trained officers at this desperate time,” police said.
Matt Cane, group manager from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said that their focus now was on search for any other human remains over and above those already recovered from the scene. According to him, there may be a slim chance, if there had been someone else in the building at the time of the blast, who may be found alive despite the intensity of the fire.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of other people having been in the premises at the time of the explosion and whom we have yet to locate. While we have no intelligence to suggest this is the case, we cannot rule out that possibility until the search is over,” Cane said.
The cause of the explosion, which has not been linked to terrorism, is yet to be ascertained. The incident happened on Feb. 25 night, shortly after 7 pm . Firefighters battled the blaze for nearly an hour till it was extinguished sometime after 8 pm, the Sun reported.