Leicester blast 1
Salvage crews work at the scene of a convenience store and home that were destroyed by an explosion in Leicester, Britain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples

A huge explosion that claimed the lives of five people in Leicester may have been caused by an unauthorised alcohol distillery.

Three men, all in their thirties, have been arrested in connection with the blast which occurred on February 25 at Zebka Polish shop on Hinckley Road, Leicester.

Claims by neigbours suggest the explosion and the building's subsequent "pancake collapse" was caused by the operation of an illegal alcohol still, Metro reports. Leicestershire Police has not yet commented on these claims but officers were seen carrying evidence bags out of a property belonging to 33-year-old shopkeeper Aram Kurd.

On Friday, police confirmed they had made two further arrests under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The men have not been named.

Liam Gannon, who lives in the local area, posted a link to Facebook with accompanying text: "Heard from a[n] inside source they were making vodka."

Roz Rowett, of Leicester, said: 'I've heard someone was making vodka and it exploded? 'Don't know how true it is though. RIP to all that have lost their lives.'

Johnny P wrote: 'My mate has friends who helped cordon the area off on Sunday night and apparently cops told them an alcohol factory was in the cellar.

"According to my mate, vodka and gin was being made and that caused the explosion. The chemistry is pretty unstable and when it goes bang, it really goes bang. Always thought a gas explosion didn't sound plausible considering no one smelled anything nearby."

Firefighters battled blaze which was finally extinguished at around 8pm on Sunday evening as emergency services and neighbours attempted to recover bodies from the wreckage.

Three victims from the same family have been named as Mary Rajoobeer, 46, and her two sons Shane, 18, and Sean, 17. Police believe it is likely Leah Beth Reek, 18, and Viktorija Ljevleva, 22, also died in the explosion.

Detective Inspector Michelle Keen said: 'Our enquiries have established that there were a number of people in the area of the supermarket in the hour leading up to, and in the minutes after, the explosion."

"I want to hear from anyone who was near the supermarket at the time and who, thinking back, remembers seeing something that they thought may have been suspicious."

"It's vital that we speak to anyone who may have information about any people they saw coming and going into the supermarket in Hinckley Road in the hours leading up to the explosion."