At least three people have been killed after an explosion at a service station in Creeslough, Co Donegal earlier today.

Emergency services are still at the scene and crews are working through the night to clear the rubble.

Letterkenny University Hospital has stood down its Major Emergency Standby protocol for tonight, but continues to treat people injured in the incident.

Staff in the hospital remain "on hand to provide all necessary medical assistance required," according to a statement issued tonight.

The hospital continues its appeal to the public not to come to the Emergency Department unless it is an absolute emergency.

In an earlier statement, the hospital said it is dealing with a serious incident, with multiple people requiring immediate attention.

People are advised to contact their GP or NowDoc service in the first instance.

It said the NowDoc service has increased staffing this evening to help deal with any additional demands.

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The Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118 and the Mulroy Coast Guard team were also assisting the operation.

Fire and ambulance crews from Northern Ireland, including a specialist rescue team, are also at the scene.

A number of people remain "trapped" at the scene of an, according to Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, who described the situation as a "worst nightmare".

He added that some people inside the building have managed to make contact with others outside.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Mr Doherty said "everybody is holding on hoping they can make contact with their loved ones".

The site holds the petrol station, deli counter, post office, shop and hairdressers for the area, Mr Doherty said.

"At 3.15pm a massive explosion could be heard from miles around ripped right through this building," he said.

"It is very sombre, there's silent prayers being said, there are people still trapped within the building and the emergency services are doing everything they can to remove the rubble," he added.

The Shandon Hotel in nearby Marblehill has stopped taking bookings for the night and is making free rooms available for members of the emergency services.

'Dark, dark cloud'

Mr Doherty said people were airlifted to regional hospitals.

"This is a dark, dark cloud for the entire community," he added.

Mr Doherty said the area would have been "very busy" at the time of the explosion.

A number of people were believed to have been in the apartments at the time of the explosion.

It is not known how many people were in the shop at the time.

The explosion caused the building to partially collapse, with a number of cars damaged.

A number of families of those who lived in the apartments have gathered near the scene.

The petrol forecourt and apartment complex prior to the explosion

'Massive explosion'

Independent Councillor John O'Donnell said there was a "massive explosion" with damage to a shop and an apartment complex.

Mr O'Donnell said everybody in the community is "shocked and traumatised".

Speaking from the scene to RTÉ’s Drivetime, Cllr O’Donnell said it is "hard to believe" that this has happened and it will take "a long time" for the area to recover.

He said emergency services are currently trying to preserve the scene and make the structure safe, but there are bits of debris hanging in the air and it is "very dangerous".

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, who is a Fianna Fáil TD for the county, said his "deepest thoughts and prayers" are with everyone affected.

In a statement, gardaí said they are "assisting other emergency services at the scene of a serious incident".

Roads to the village have been sealed off as emergency services respond to the incident.

Forecourt operator Applegreen has said it is aware of a serious incident at its dealer-operated location at Creeslough.

In a short statement, it said emergency services are on the scene and are dealing with "a major incident".

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone here at Applegreen are with all of those who have been affected," the statement added.

A woman working in Creeslough, who did not want to be named, said everyone in the area is in shock.

She said: "I heard an explosion, I couldn't tell exactly what happened.

"It was like a loud bang. The windows in the AirBnB next door are shattered."

Additional reporting Aisling Kenny