Gardai are still trying to find the owner of a dry cleaners in the centre of Killarney, Co Kerry after an explosion at about 6.20am today injured several people and caused traffic mayhem in the tourist town.
Mr James Gleeson, the owner of the premises, is still unaccounted for hours after the blast. Efforts to contact him have so far proved unsuccessful and gardai are making contact with his wife who is visiting relatives in Kilkenny.
The Garda Press Office has just said the operation in Killarney is to be scaled down now and will begin again in the morning. There is no change in the status and the man in question remains missing.
According to locals, Mr Gleeson went to the laundrette early this morning to start up the machines. He was due to drive to Kilkenny to join his wife.
Cathal Walshe, a local Fine Gael councillor, said that there were growing fears for Mr Gleeson's safety. "The town is in shock. There is an air of gloom around the town as we speak."
Several people suffered minor injuries when the explosion occurred in a local laundry on Brewery Lane in the centre of the busy tourist town.
The blast happened at around 6.20am yesterday, causing much of the building to collapse and shattering windows in neighbouring properties.
The damaged building is close to Kenmare Square, beside two busy hotels, the International and the Ross. Both hotels were among the homes and businesses that were evacuated after the explosion shook the town centre. Several streets were closed and motorists were advised to avoid the area.
Inspectors with the Health and Safety Authority attended the scene of the explosion at noon, as emergency services prepared to search the rubble. Services including fire and ambulance crews are due to meet at 2.30pm to decide on how to proceed.
Sean O’Grady, a Labour Party councillor who visited at the scene of the explosion said the building was “a big pile of rubble.” He said emergency services were at the scene but by noon yesterday, it appeared they were still on standby, waiting to move in to examine the site of the explosion.
Padraig Corkery, communications officer with Kerry County Council, said the priority was to secure the building and surrounding areas. He said Gardai and forensic experts were at the scene.
The International Hotel which backs onto the building where the explosion happened was among the homes and businesses that were evacuated following the explosion.In a statement mnagement at the landmark hotel said: “Due to an explosion in a neighbouring building, our hotel has had to be evacuated this morning at 6:30am. All guests and staff are safe and accounted for. All of our guests are being accommodated in neighbouring hotels.”“While we can’t confirm when we will have access to the hotel we are taking the precaution that guests will have to be moved to alternative hotels until we can properly access the situation.”
“For further updates please visit our website http://www.killarneyinternational.com/ and facebook page for regular updates,” the statement said.