GARDAI are investigating a major fire and explosion near a shopping centre in Mullingar earlier this afternoon.
The fire broke out in a storage shed for a car dismantling company behind the Marks and Spencer and Pennies stores on Grand Parade.
The fire spread quickly through the unit and led to a serious explosion which damaged cars in the surrounding area.
A number of units of the local fire brigade responded to the blaze after they were alerted just before 3pm and evacuated several shops in the locality.
Smoke from the blaze was visible several kilometres away, with local residents posting pictures to social media.
The scene has been preserved pending a forensic examination, with gardai saying it is too early to say whether the blaze is suspicious.