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Cheshire explosion rescue effort continues

Specialist search teams are preparing to scour the rubble of a factory to try to find four workers still missing after it was destroyed by a fire and three explosions.

Specialist search teams are preparing to scour the rubble of a factory to try to find four workers still missing after it was destroyed by a fire and three explosions.

Up to 80 firefighters have been trying to make the scene safe so they can get to work at the site at Bosley, near Macclesfield.

Three men and a woman are still unaccounted for after yesterday morning's blasts.

Crews were still hosing down the fire late on Friday night, using thermal imaging cameras to locate hotspots.

They described the area around the collapsed four-storey building as a "scene of devastation".

Urban search and rescue teams, including experts who helped after the Nepal earthquake, are hoping to enter the scene this morning.

"They have got a big task in front of them," said Paul Hancock, chief fire officer for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service

"But before we commit these crews we must ensure that they are safe to go in that environment.

"The explosion combined with a number of risks - running fuel fires, LPG cylinders, asbestos ... they are significant hazards."

Cheshire Police have not yet named the four missing people but said they were in close contact with their families.

Assistant Chief Constable Guy Hindle said: "Irrespective of the hazards and the danger, we won't give up and we don't give up."

Firefighters were called to the wood treatment works just after 9am on Friday and declared it a "major incident".

Twenty people were working at the mill at the time of the explosions. 

Flames were reported to have shot up to 70 metres in the air and residents said the first of the blasts had felt like an "earthquake".

Four people were taken to hospital after the explosions on Bosley's Tunstall Road.

A 29-year-old woman was airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, after she suffered serious burns and blast injuries to her head, face, arms and chest.

Another two people were taken to a specialist trauma unit at Royal Stoke University Hospital, and a fourth male casualty was taken to Whiston Hospital, Merseyside.

Four others were treated at the scene for breathing difficulties.

Police said 35 people had been "directly affected" by the incident.

People living nearby were told to close their windows and doors because of smoke but that warning has now been lifted.

One resident, Charlotte Maher, told Sky News: "We felt the house shake. We thought it was an earthquake. Then there was black smoke and we heard sirens."

Damian Malone said: "I heard this massive explosion, to find this big fireball rising from the building.

"The ground was actually shaking. It lasted for two, three or four minutes but as the ground seemed to settle there was another explosion on top of that and black smoke billowing out everywhere.

"The sound of the explosion was unreal, scary."

Cheshire's fire service said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the disaster.

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