A young child has died and four people injured following a suspected gas explosion in the middle of the night.

A major incident was declared in Heysham, Lancashire, overnight as nearby residents were evacuated following the explosion at around 2.40am which destroyed three homes.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: "We remain at the scene of a suspected gas explosion on Mallowdale Avenue, Heysham. We were called at 2.40am this morning (Sunday May 16th) to reports that a number of houses on the road had collapsed.

"Our officers attended and found two houses collapsed and serious damage to a third property.

"We can now confirm that sadly a young child has died as a result of the incident.

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A child has died and four people injured in the explosion
A child has died and four people injured in the explosion

"The family have been informed and our thoughts remain with them at this distressing time. Another four people, two men and two women have been taken to hospital with serious injuries.

"A search of the site is still ongoing with Lancashire Fire and Rescue and North West Ambulance Service also in attendance. A safety cordon has been put in place and nearby residents have been evacuated.

"We are currently working with gas service engineers to make the area safe. Road closures also remain in place and people are being asked to avoid the entire area while we deal with this ongoing incident."

Neighbours have posted dramatic photos on social media showing the wreckage of a number of properties, after they were woken by the sound of the blast.

The blast took place at around 2.40am
The blast took place at around 2.40am

One neighbour, who had to flee his home four doors down from the epicentre of the blast, told the Mirror: "It's blown my windows, front door and roof."

Cabbie Anthony Davis, 58, was asleep in his caravan when the blast took place.

"It was like a minor earthquake," he said. "From what we gather it's taken two or three houses with it.

"We live a quarter of a mile away and it shook our caravan – we thought something had hit it.

Neighbours compared the sound of the explosion to thunder
Neighbours compared the sound of the explosion to thunder

"We've got our little granddaughters staying overnight. We didn't know what it was."

Other locals also described hearing the blast and thinking there had been an earthquake.

Scott Lancaster said he had been reading the news and jumped out of his seat when the blast occurred.

He said: "It sounded like when you are at a firework display and the final rocket always lets off the biggest loud bang."

Some locals thought there had been an earthquake
Some locals thought there had been an earthquake

Dan Knowles wrote on Twitter : "There's been a terrible explosion on Mallowdale Ave in #Heysham sounds disastrous, 3 houses collapsed, praying for everyone.

"We woke about 2:30am and thought it was an earthquake at first. We're about 4 streets up in Heysham and could feel it."

Lancashire Fire said on Twitter that 10 units were called to a row of homes on Mallowdale Avenue around 2.30am and that firefighters were searching a collapsed property.

"A major incident has been declared after we (were) called to terraced houses on Mallowdale Avenue. It has been reported that there has been an explosion at a property and firefighters are searching the collapsed property," Lancashire Fire said.

The North West Ambulance Service tweeted that it had also sent units to the scene, with a priority to "ensure people receive the medical help they need as quickly as possible".

The Service tweeted: "Following reports of an explosion on Mallowdale Avenue, Heysham, we have resources at the scene and we are working with @LancashireFRS and @LancsPolice".

Electricity North West tweeted that it had paused electricity supplies to the area for safety reasons while the blast was being investigated.