At least 30 people have been killed in an explosion and fire at a petrol station in Dagestan in southern Russia.
The blast occurred in the regional capital Makhachkala, which sits on the coast of the Caspian Sea, at 21:40 local time (18:40 GMT).
Dozens of other people were injured in the incident, the exact cause of which is not yet clear.
Pictures showed a large fire lighting up the night sky and a number of fire engines at the scene.
Some 260 emergency workers have been deployed, as has an aircraft to evacuate the seriously injured to Moscow, the emergencies ministry said.
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted doctors as saying three children were among the dead.
It added that the fire had spread over an area of 600 sq m (6,460 sq ft) and that there was a danger of further explosions.
An unnamed witness quoted by the Russian newspaper, Izvestia said the fire had started on a car lot opposite the petrol station.
“After the explosion, everything fell on our heads. We couldn’t see anything anymore,” the witness said.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said the fire had broken out during some car maintenance work and had been “followed by a bang”.
A criminal case has been opened to establish the circumstances leading up to the incident, the Committee said.
The Republic of Dagestan is one of 83 constituent parts of the Russian Federation and is the southernmost part of the country. Makhachkala sits around 1,600 km (1,000 miles) from Moscow.
Credit: Nigerian Tribune