Last person missing found dead in Sicily building explosion

Firefighters at the site of the blast in Ravanusa, Sicily, on Tuesday.
Firefighters at the site of the blast in Ravanusa, Sicily, on Tuesday. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco (Italian fire and rescue service)
The last person still missing following a massive explosion in Sicily that destroyed four residential buildings was found dead in the wreckage Tuesday, firefighters said, bringing the death toll to nine.

Firefighters “found the sadly lifeless body of the last missing person,” from the blast that occurred in the southern Sicilian town of Ravanusa Saturday night, Italy’s national fire brigade said on Twitter.

The discovery came half an hour after rescuers said they had found a body of one of the last two remaining people believed to be still trapped underneath the piles of rubble.

The weekend explosion wiped out residential buildings, including a four-story apartment.

READ ALSO: Search continues for two missing after building explosion in Sicily

Rescuers, aided by search and rescue dogs, have been searching for survivors since the evening of the explosion, but only two women were found alive under the rubble, on Sunday.

About 100 people remain homeless following the incident, as authorities cleared out residents from neighbouring buildings that were damaged or deemed dangerous.

Pope Francis on Tuesday sent his condolences and “heartfelt closeness” to the victims and their families, while expressing his “appreciation for those who have done their best in rescue operations”.

Before confirmation of the last two bodies pulled from the wreckage, local media had reported that the two missing people were a father and son.

An investigation has been opened into the cause of the explosion, which authorities say was most likely caused by a gas leak.

Natural gas distributor Italgas said it had received no reports of gas leaks in the week leading up to the incident, despite local residents reporting having heard complaints of a smell of gas.

No construction work was underway in the section of pipeline affected in the blast and the town’s distribution network was fully inspected in both 2020 and 2021, Italgas said.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica said the town’s gas pipelines – installed 36 years ago – were among the oldest in Italy, and ran through unstable ground susceptible to soil erosion and landslides.

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