FOUR people have died and one other has been seriously hurt in a huge explosion at a Bristol water recycling plant today.
Cops have declared a major incident after the tragedy, which happened at the Wessex Water site in Avonmouth this morning.
Emergency services were called to the plant in Kings Weston Lane at 11.20am after the blast 'rattled windows' of businesses half a mile away.
The explosion involved one of the chemical tanks at the sewage processing plant.
It's understood the casualties had been standing on top of the tank when it blew up.
Three Wessex Water employees and one contractor were killed. Their families have been informed.
The fifth person, who was injured, did not suffer life-threatening wounds.
Witnesses say there were at least ten ambulances at the scene, as well as cops and firefighters.
The air ambulance also landed nearby, while a second helicopter was reportedly searching overhead for people who have been hurt.
Specialist teams from as far away as Devon are now searching the site after the blast buckled the roof of the silo.
Earlier today, cops and the fire service confirmed there had been a number of casualties, with reports that workers were still missing.
It's now been reported that lives were lost during the horrific incident.
People working nearby have told of the moment they heard the blast.
One person working around half a mile away said: "All our windows rattled."
Another said: "My better half is working in Avonmouth and their entire building rumbled and shook from it."
Kieran Jenkins, who had been working nearby, said he had seen people running from the site.
"We were inside the warehouse, the whole warehouse was shaking and we literally stood there in shock," he told BBC News.
"Next thing you know we looked out of the windows and all we could see was people running."
And another man who was nearby said: "I was at work when the blast in happened.
"We were only about 900 metres as the crow flies across some open land.
"Shockwave shook the building, the shutter door made the strangest noise I've ever heard."
In an update this afternoon, Chief Inspector Mark Runacres, of Avon and Somerset Police, said cops have declared a major incident after the incident at the area's largest sewage treatment works.
“Officers remain at the scene and are likely to be for some time as we work together with other agencies in dealing with this major incident," he said.
“A cordon has been set up and we’d advise members of the public to avoid the area at this time where possible to allow the emergency services to carry out their work.
MAJOR INCIDENT DECLARED AFTER EXPLOSION
“Police enquiries into exactly what happened are at a very early stage and are continuing.”
Avon Fire and Rescue Service area manager Matt Peskett said: "We have been called to a large explosion at 11.22am in a warehouse in Avonmouth.
“Crews from Avonmouth, Southmead, Yate, Patchway, Hicks Gate, Kingswood, Weston-super-Mare and Temple were mobilised and attended the incident.
“We were joined at the scene by our police and ambulance colleagues and have now handed over the incident to the police and continue to support our multi-agency partners.”
Paramedics have also released a statement.
They said: "South Western Ambulance Service is responding to a serious incident at premises on King’s Weston Lane, Avonmouth, Bristol.
"We have attended with multiple resources, including land and air ambulances and specialist paramedic teams."
Officials at Bristol City Council said: "We would like to reassure the public there is not believed to be any ongoing public safety concerns following the major incident at Wessex Water’s Bristol water recycling centre in Avonmouth."
One person living in the area said: "The bang was so loud.
"Hope everyone is ok."
Others driving along the M49 at junction 18 reported seeing clouds of billowing smoke.
The site is close to the docks and the Avonmouth container terminal.
Witness Jawad Burhan said this afternoon there was a "helicopter looking for missing people" and police had closed a nearby road leading up to the building.
"I heard the sound, I'm working beside the building in another warehouse. After ten minutes I saw the helicopter coming and the police," he said.
Bristol MP Darren Jones said it's the second serious incident in Avonmouth "in as many weeks" after firefighters tackled a 20,000 tonne metal recycling plant blaze.
"Once our emergency services have resolved this incident and helped any injured workers, I’ll be calling on the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive and others to ensure lessons are being learnt for the future," he said.
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