A suspected gas explosion in a pizzeria in northern Rio de Janeiro damaged 40 buildings early on Monday (19 October) and injured eight people, including one child, the Brazilian government said.

According to witnesses, the explosion took place at the Dell'Arco pizzeria. Several other commercial establishments in the area were completely destroyed. Windows and roofs of houses and apartment blocks were broken, and the glass windows of a bank situated 100m from the restaurant were completely shattered.

Rescue workers were busy in the area from the early hours of the morning, searching for any further victims amid the rubble where smoke continued to escape at noon. The fire service said it was unlikely more victims would be found, but that the rescue mission would last two to three days.

Seven people, including a nine-year-old girl, were taken to a local public hospital, and one other victim was treated at the scene of the accident. Amid the losses, local residents celebrated the fact that no lives had been taken.

"It is very painful because a lot of friends have lost everything, absolutely everything. Thank God no one was killed, some people were taken to hospital but they are ok, we have to be grateful for that, at least nobody died," said local resident, Maria de Conceicao.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere remained tense. "I heard a bang and I thought it was thunder, I thought: 'Oh, heavens a storm is coming.' I was very scared. Then I went to the door and I heard about this tragedy that just happened, and I was terrified, as is everyone," said another resident, Elianete Barbosa.

Investigations are under way into the cause of the explosion, which is suspected to have resulted from a gas leak from canisters stored in the back of the restaurant.