The death toll from an explosion at a petrol station in Ireland is expected to rise beyond the seven deaths already confirmed.
A search and recovery operation continues in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal, as rescue crews try to locate a number of people who are still missing.
The Friday afternoon explosion hit the Applegreen gas station and convenience store and adjacent buildings.
Having announced three deaths on Friday night, the Irish police force, An Garda Siochana, confirmed a further four deaths in a statement on Saturday morning.
The force said: “A Garda Siochana can now confirm seven deaths as a result of this incident – three deaths confirmed yesterday, four deaths now confirmed overnight.
“Investigation and recovery for further casualties continues.
“Eight people were taken to hospital yesterday for medical attention.”
A major emergency response operation involving first responders from both sides of the Irish border lasted through the night and continued into Saturday morning.
The wreckage was being transported to trailers and removed from the scene.
Two rescue workers were on an elevated platform above the blast site and an excavator was working through the debris.
Among those gathered at the cordon on Friday night were relatives of people believed to be in the buildings at the time.
Sniffer dogs were used inside the ruins.
At one point on Friday night all machinery was turned off and spectators were asked to remain silent as rescue crews tried to locate survivors under the debris.
Irish President Michael D Higgins expressed his shock at the “terrible tragedy”.
“All our thoughts must go out to all those affected,” he said.
“Those who have received news of the loss of a loved one, those who have been injured and especially those who are anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones.
“This tragedy is a terrible blow to a tight-knit community where any loss and injury will be felt by every member of the community and far beyond.”
Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin said he expected the death toll to rise.
The Taoiseach described Friday as the “darkest days” for Donegal and Ireland.
“The people on this island will be numbed by the same sense of shock and utter devastation as the people of Creeslough at this tragic loss of life,” he said.
The Garda have not released any information on the suspected cause of the explosion.
Donegal TD Pearse Doherty, who was at the scene on Saturday morning, said there were many people missing.
He told the PA news agency: “The rescue and recovery operation continued throughout the night.
“This explosion not only took the heart out of this building, but it ripped the heart out of this community and left massive devastation.
“In the first hours, four more bodies were recovered, bringing the total number of dead to seven.
“There are a number of people who are still missing and emergency services are working tirelessly to clear the debris and collect other people who may still be in this building.”
Minister for Agriculture and Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue, speaking from the scene of the blast, said: “It has been a very difficult time overnight as emergency services have worked through the rubble.
“It’s a really challenging, traumatic situation here in Creeslough. There is real devastation here in this local community.”
On Saturday morning prayers were said at the local church in Creeslough for all those suffering.
The congregation at St Michael’s Church heard there was a “tsumami” of grief in the community.
Fr John Joe Duffy said: “From our hearts, with all our hearts and with all our souls, we pray for those who died, we pray for those who were injured, we pray for all those who were involved… we pray for those who are there continue to they help and have helped since yesterday.
“We also pray for those family members who have bereaved and we pray for those who are still waiting for news.
“We hold them all very close to our hearts.”
On Friday night, a coastguard helicopter airlifted some of those injured in the explosion from University Hospital Letterkenny in Dublin.
Northern Ireland Air Ambulance was also deployed, as well as fire crews and ground ambulances from the area.
The Irish Coast Guard said on Saturday morning it was continuing to support emergency crews at the scene after working through the night.
Letterkenny Hospital appealed to the public not to attend its emergency department unless it was urgent.
The hospital began the major emergency standby protocol earlier Friday. The protocol was lifted late Friday.
In a statement, the hospital said: “The hospital continues to treat those injured in the incident in Creeslough, Co Donegal, and remains on standby to provide all necessary medical assistance that is required.”
Applegreen founder and chief executive Joe Barrett said the company was “absolutely shocked and saddened” by the “tragic” incident in Creeslough.
Mr Barrett said: “Yesterday was a very dark day for Creeslough, for Donegal, for Ireland and for all of us in the wider Applegreen family.
“This is an extremely tragic event and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, as well as the whole community in Creeslough.
“We are completely shocked and saddened by what happened yesterday. I would also like to express our thanks to the emergency services and first responders dealing with the incident.
“We have been working with our local partners in Creeslough since 2014. We are providing them with help and support locally at this very difficult time.”
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted: “Terrible news from Donegal tonight.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic events and with the emergency services who are responding.”
Nina Gabel, 35, who was on the ropes on Friday night, described harrowing scenes.
“There was a woman who didn’t know where her daughter was and she was very upset,” he told the PA.
“There are emergency services everywhere, there were so many gardaí and fire engines.
“What looked like local farmers’ tractors were helping to dig up the rubble.”
A local hotel stopped taking reservations from members of the public Friday to ensure all extra rooms were reserved for first responders.