POLICE have declared a "major incident" after reports of a large explosion at supermarket in Leicester.
Residents living close to a Londis on Hinkley Road, about a mile from the city centre, reported their houses shaking with force from a blast.
Ambulance officials said they had taken four patients to the Leicester Royal Infirmary and doctors remained at the scene.
Police advised people to stay away from the area.
Photographs of the shop showed flames erupting from the roof and smoke billowing into the road.
People were seen in footage trying to move pieces of rubble outside the building as sirens wailed.
A fire and rescue service spokeswoman said the emergency services were conducting a search and rescue operation and it was unclear if people were trapped in the wreckage.
She said the two floor building had a loft conversion that had suffered a "pancake collapse".
The emergency services said they were called to reports of a blast shortly after 7pm and six fire engines were sent to the scene.
John Alexander, a local resident and journalist who was evacuated from the area told the BBC, the shop and the flat above it had been "completely flattened" by the explosion.
He was sitting in his front room when he felt "a huge shock" that sounded like a "rush of air", he said.
When he came out of his house, he saw rubble lying across four lanes of the road. A cordon had been set up and around 60 houses were evacuated, he said.
People had been drinking in a pub near the shop and smoking in a nearby bus shelter at the time of the blast.
Leicestershire Police said in a statement: "There has been a major incident on Hinckley Road, Leicester. All emergency services are currently dealing with this. Carlisle Street and part of Hinckley Road have been closed Please avoid the area."
MP for Leicester West, Liz Kendall said on Twitter: "Terrible news, am in touch with police as situation develops, thoughts and prayers with all those affected and with our amazing emergency services."
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