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Fire in Athlone following suspected gas explosion [gallery]

A bar and an auctioneers in the Co Westmeath side of the town are engulfed by a fire; the area has been evacuated.

Smoke emerges from Finlay's Auctioneers in the centre of Athlone following the gas explosion and subsequent fire earlier today.
Smoke emerges from Finlay's Auctioneers in the centre of Athlone following the gas explosion and subsequent fire earlier today.
Image: IMC Athlone via Twitter

THE CENTRE OF ATHLONE TOWN was evacuated following an explosion in the centre of the town this afternoon.

The suspected gas explosion occurred on Castlemaine Street near St Mary’s Square in the town at about 3pm today, according to local radio station Midlands 103.

Two business premises – O’Neill’s Bar and Finlay’s auctioneers – caught fire on fire following the suspected explosion, and eye-witness reports say that the roofs of the two buildings had caved in.

Emergency services – including five units of the fire brigade – attended the scene. Fire service representatives told the Irish Times that the fire is “fairly substantial”.

The area remained evacuated for some time afterward, RTÉ reports, amid fears that the fire could spread.

Motorists and pedestrians are asked not to travel to the area; traffic diversions are in place at the Crescent Junction, at Northgate Street, and at the Supermacs and Dunnes Stores roundabout in Irishtown.

Gardaí have advised that shoppers and others looking to access the town that car parks at Fairgreen, Newtown Centre and Golden Island are still open.

There are not thought to be any injuries.

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Gavan Reilly

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