Rescuers search for survivors after explosion in Sicily

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  • Several buildings hit by gas explosion in Sicilian town
  • At least three dead due to explosion - Civil Protection
  • Italian gas grid operator says no complaint about gas leak

RAVANUSA, Italy, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Rescuers plan to work through the night in the Sicilian town of Ravanusa to try to find survivors of a suspected gas explosion that killed at least three people.

Two people were found alive under the rubble and six were missing, authorities said on Sunday.

"We have two great friends still under there, we are praying to God that they pull them out okay," local resident Lillo Cavallaro told Reuters.

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In the explosion late on Saturday, four houses collapsed and another three were damaged, authorities said, adding the blast was likely triggered by a gas leak from the town's pipes, although an investigation was underway to ascertain the cause.

Gas grid operator Italgas (IG.MI) expressed its sorrow and condolences to people in Ravanusa. It said its emergency service had received no reports of gas leaks last week.

"The Ravanusa distribution network was fully inspected in both 2020 and 2021," said the company, adding that there were no construction sites on the section of pipeline affected.

Local residents in the town of 11,000 people watched on Sunday as firefighters and civil-protection rescuers tried to locate survivors.

"It is a small town and everyone knows each other," said 69 year-old pensioner Arcangelo D'Angelo, adding he knew the missing people. "What we are living through here is an unimaginable drama and we have no words."

Ravanusa is near the southwestern Sicilian city of Agrigento, which is famous for its Greek temples.

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Writing by Francesca Landini; Editing by Gareth Jones, Raissa Kasolowsky and Barbara Lewis

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