Four people are unaccounted for after two explosions and a fire at a wood mill in Bosley, Cheshire, say rescue services.
Three people have been taken to hospital with burns and a major incident has been declared around the site at Wood Flour Mills on Tunstall Road.
Specialist search teams are being used to find the missing people and fire officials say there is the risk of further explosions.
Fire service teams said the scene was one of devastation when they arrived, with one four-storey building flattened.
They say 20 people were working at the mill site at the time. Crews treated the walking wounded as the site was evacuated.
A 29-year-old woman suffered serious burns and blast injuries to her head, face, arms and chest, West Midlands Ambulance Service said.
She was flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, for further specialist treatment, while two other people who suffered burns have also been taken to hospital.
Fifteen fire engines are at the scene.
People living nearby and a local school have been told to close their windows and doors because of smoke coming from the site, south of Macclesfield.
Witness Damian Malone told Sky News: “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.”
Local 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.
“I got a call from my mum who works at Bosley (Primary) School, and they’d had a visit from the police who told them there’d been a major incident and everyone should keep their windows and doors shut because of the smoke.”
More than 40 pupils are at the school, which is about a mile from the explosion site
Student Charli Alston, 18, was walking her dog with a friend when she saw heard a “huge bang”.
“It sounded like a thunder cloud,” she said. “We didn’t know what it was because it was sunny then. We looked over and there were massive plumes of flames. Almost as high as the hill next to it.
“I couldn’t tell you how high the flames were, but I’d say a good 70 metres into the air. Huge. The sound was really really loud and there was loads of billowing black smoke.
“We phoned 999 straight away, because it was pretty terrifying watching it.”
Fire officials say they were called to reports of an explosion at the mill at about 9.10am.
It said fire engines from Congleton, Bollington, Winsford, Crewe and Macclesfield attended, including an aerial appliance from Macclesfield and one from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust said it had sent “at least six ambulances, two rapid response vehicles, two doctors, four managers and the air ambulance” to the scene.
Spectacular footage has emerged showing an enormous crack in the Earth stretching across an arid stretch of northwest Mexico.
The giant chasm, located near Hermosillo in the state of Sonora, is around a half-mile long and up to 26 feet deep in some places, Sky News reported.
Eerie video footage shot by a drone was posted to YouTube earlier this week.
The camera traces along the trench, catching befuddled motorists standing near its edge.
The crack is 16 feet wide in some places and has forced drivers on the local highway to take long detours in order to get around it, Sky News said.
It wasn’t clear what caused the massive fissure.
Some surveyors said they believed it might have opened in an earthquake that struck the area Sunday, while others mused a leaky levee might have caused the ground to collapse.
Sinkhole Keeps Motorway Closed Over Safety Fears, UK
A 15ft-deep sinkhole has closed the M2 – and experts claim the wet weather could be to blame.
Dozens of engineers are investigating the hole near Sittingbourne in Kent but the Highways Agency is refusing to state when the motorway could reopen.
It is unlikely to be in time for this morning’s rush hour.
“We’re not putting a timescale on it at the moment,” Highways Agency spokesperson Kelly Barnes told Sky News.
“We’re investigating the cause and then it’s a case of seeing how we repair it.
“One of the main reasons we closed the motorway, which we never do lightly, is for safety reasons.
“People should anticipate that it will remain closed overnight and into rush hour on Wednesday.”
One potential solution could be to pour foam concrete into the hole – but more extensive structural work could be required.
Engineers are being aided by fire crews who have provided camera equipment enabling them to scan the hole.
Long tailbacks developed either side of the 10-mile stretch following the closure ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s rush hour.
Drivers travelling to and from Dover are advised to use the M20.
A representative from the AA believes the hole, which is almost 17x7ft across, could have been caused by the extreme weather being endured by much of southern England.
“The M2 started operating in 1965 and I am not aware of any previous collapses so perhaps this is yet another casualty of the exceptionally wet weather,” said AA roads policy head Paul Watters.
“We hope the Highways Agency can quickly resolve the problem as this is a key route to the port of Dover and to east Kent.”
Professor Amir Allani, professor of civil engineering at Greenwich University, agrees with the AA.
He said: “It may be due to the current rain and flooding underground has created the erosion which, in time, has facilitated the layers above the weak strata to collapse.”
A signed diversion is now in place via the A249, the M20, the A20, the A252 and the A251.
Motoring organisations have campaigned for more funding to fix and prevent holes on the road network, but the AA claims no amount of money would have prevented Tuesday’s incident.
“Thankfully this was on the central reservation,” said company president Edmund King.
“If a hole of this nature had opened up on a carriageway it could well have led to tragedy.
“I don’t think this is anything to do with potholes or general maintenance.
“There seems to have been some structural anomaly – perhaps some sort of geological fault or an old mineshaft.
“Clearly, it’s a concern that this has happened on a busy motorway that leads to and from the coast.
“Engineers will want to deal with this as soon as possible.
“If the stretch of motorway stays shut it will cause traffic problems, but safety must come first.”
Earlier this month, a sinkhole measuring 30ft-deep swallowed a car after opening on the driveway of a house in High Wycombe.
Nobody was inside the VW Lupo when the ground on Main Road in Walter’s Ash gave way.
Six danger-to-life flood warnings are in place as storms leave thousands without power and cause “major damage” to rail tracks
Thousands of homes are without power in southwest England and Ireland and commuters face travel disruption as heavy rain and winds of up to 80mph continue.
Hundreds of Western Power Distribution staff have been working through the night to restore power to 6,000 homes, down from around 44,000 which are mainly in Devon and Cornwall.
“Airborne debris” had hit overhead power lines, said a company spokesman.
In Ireland 20,000 homes were left without power, now down to 8,000, as the second city, Cork, was inundated for the third time in five days.
Forecasters say that heavy rain and gale force winds will continue to bring travel disruption and flooding to coastal areas over the next few days.
Jeff Penhaligon, harbourmaster at East Looe in Cornwall, told Sky News the storm was “really hammering at the moment”.
Both East and West Looe took a battering overnight and were now awaiting a mid morning high tide.
He warned people to keep away from the waves, saying: “The sea is horrendous. Watch it by all means but stay well back.”
The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning, with southern and western areas of the UK and the east coast of Ireland most at risk.
Gusts of 60-70mph are expected today across parts of south Wales, Devon and Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset.
First Great Western Trains has advised passengers not to travel west of Exeter St Davids station because of “major” track damage at Dawlish.
Southeastern has also imposed a 40mph speed limit on parts of its network until Wednesday evening.
Fallen trees, floods and landslips are possible, said the company.
Sky News weather producer Joanna Robinson said: “Eighty-mile-per-hour gusts are possible for areas surrounding the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea and the English Channel.”
Will Stephens, RNLI Coastal Safety Staff Officer, said: “With more stormy weather forecast, we’re asking people to take extra care if they’re going down to the coast.
“Rough seas and extreme weather might look exciting, but getting too close can be risky. So respect the water and, in particular, avoid exposed places where big waves could sweep you off your feet.”
The heavy rain is likely to bring more misery to flooded areas of Somerset, which were visited on Tuesday by Prince Charles.
The Environment Agency – which has been accused of not doing enough to help Somerset flood victims – has issued six severe flood warnings in place across Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
Across the southern half of the UK there are 76 less severe flood warnings, and 219 flood alerts.
The agency said on its website: “Today and tomorrow high tides, a positive surge, strong winds and large waves combine to bring a risk of significant impacts from coastal flooding to much of south-west England and southern England coastlines and minor impacts to the west Wales coastline.”
‘Danger to life’ warnings cover six areas: South Devon from Start Point to Dawlish Warren and from Exmouth to Lyme Regis, Weymouth seafront, Lyme Regis harbour, West Bay harbour, and the South Cornwall coast between Lands End and Plymouth.
A high tide is expected in those areas this morning.