“The search continues unabated” for two more people missing after four residential buildings toppled to the ground late Saturday in the southern town of Ravanusa, the island’s civil protection unit said on Facebook.
The latest victims were found at dawn.
A photograph posted on the region’s firefighting service twitter account showed firefighters standing on the rubble, as “a fresh day of searching painfully begins”.
🔴 #Ravanusa #crollo palazzina, inizia con dolore questo nuovo giorno di ricerche: dopo 30 ore senza pause i #vigilidelfuoco hanno individuato i corpi senza vita di 4 dei 6 dispersi [#13dicembre 7:00] pic.twitter.com/qOZDyos5yW
— Vigili del Fuoco (@emergenzavvf) December 13, 2021
Two women were recovered alive from the debris early on Sunday after being found by sniffer dogs, but rescuers have not heard further signs of life.
The blast levelled four structures, including a four-storey apartment building, in the central residential district of the town of nearly 11,000 inhabitants, according to the civil protection unit.
Images from the scene showed a mass of concrete rubble, wooden beams and mangled steel in a large empty space, with neighbouring buildings charred and damaged.
🔴 #Ravanusa #crollo palazzina: 100 #vigilidelfuoco impegnati nelle operazioni di soccorso con nucleo NBCR, team USAR, cinofili e esperti nella conduzione di mezzi movimento terra. Nella clip il sorvolo con i droni sull'area dell'intervento [#12dicembre 12:15] pic.twitter.com/QNht1o13xc
— Vigili del Fuoco (@emergenzavvf) December 12, 2021
An investigation has been opened into the cause of the explosion, which authorities said was most probably a gas leak.
Natural gas distributor Italgas said in a statement it had received no reports of gas leaks in the week leading up to the incident.
No construction work was under way in the section of pipeline affected in the blast and the town’s distribution network was fully inspected in both 2020 and 2021, it said.
Local resident Calogero Bonanno said “neighbours had told me there was a smell of gas”.
“I heard a tremendous roar, as if a bomb had gone off or a plane had crashed into the house,” he was cited as saying by Italian media.
“Then the window frames exploded. We immediately went down to the street, there was fire everywhere, rubble all around,” he said after fleeing along with his wife, three children and in-laws.
“It’s a miracle we’re alive”.