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Eight dead in Sicily after gas explosion causes building collapse

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By Euronews  with AFP
Italian firefighters and rescuers search for survivors among the rubble of a collapsed building, in Ravanusa, Sicily, Italy.
Italian firefighters and rescuers search for survivors among the rubble of a collapsed building, in Ravanusa, Sicily, Italy.   -   Copyright  Italian Firefighters Vigili del Fuoco via AP

At least eight people have died after a suspected methane gas explosion caused the collapse of four buildings in Sicily, Italian authorities say.

It happened in the southern town of Ravanusa, according to civil protection officers.

Three people were initially declared dead on Sunday, as rescue services searched for more victims.

On Monday, Italian authorities said they had pulled four more bodies from the rubble, raising the death toll to seven.

The body of an eighth victim was found by firefighters on Tuesday, three days after the blast.

Firefighters and civil protection volunteers were digging with their bare hands in the search for another person still thought to be buried inside the pile of collapsed concrete and metal.

"It was as if a plane had crashed into our building," a resident of an adjacent building told the ANSA news agency.

Two elderly women were rescued alive hours after the blast on Saturday evening and have been transported to a local hospital.

Around 250 rescuers arrived in Ravanusa to help with the search and rescue mission, the Sicily civil protection said.

The victims of the explosion include a heavily pregnant woman, her husband and his parents, whom the young couple had been visiting.

An investigation has been opened for manslaughter.

The natural gas distribution company Italgas said in a statement that it had not received any reports of gas leaks in the week before the incident.

Pope Francis has also expressed his condolences following the explosion, which has left more than 100 people homeless.