A large explosion has damaged a dance studio and Chinese restaurant near the British city of Liverpool, with reports of several buildings having collapsed.

The explosion happened in the Wirral area of Merseyside, alongside the river Mersey, about 9.15pm local time (6.15am NZ time).

Early reports and social media pictures from the scene report the streets littered with debris and bricks.

Merseyside Fire Services have told local media that the blast has devastated an area some 50 meters by 40 meters. Two buildings have collapsed.

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"They have collapsed in a suspected explosion due to a gas leak," a fire spokeswoman said.
There are reports of injuries. Special rescue teams have been called for.

The blast appears to have affected a dance studio and Chinese restaurant. The Mirrorreports 15 people were injured inside the restaurant alone

Many of the casualties are believed to have come from these premises.

Witnesses report wounded being walked and wheel to ambulances amid the rubble.

The explosion shook the ground and sent a huge plume of smoke and dust into the sky.

Police say the blast has disrupted the rail line between Birkenhead Central and Ellesmere Port/Chester. All services have been halted.

The member of parliament representing Wirral South, Alison McGovern, has tweeted: "Am on the scene in New Ferry. A very serious situation. Please stay away if you can, let emergency services do their job."

More to come.