The West

Sydney shop blast: We still hold hope of finding survivors
Bianka and baby Jude O'Brien, missing and feared dead after Rozelle explosion.

A body has been found and rescuers concede hopes are fading for the other two people believed trapped in the rubble of a Sydney building destroyed in an explosion.

Three residents of the building, Bianka O'Brien, her 12-month-old son Jude and 30-year-old neighbour Chris Noble were missing after the convenience store in Rozelle was razed by the explosion and fire about 4am on Thursday morning.

The body was discovered at 4.30pm, but had not been identified and its gender was not known.

Three hours later, police said the body could not be retrieved because the site was still too unsafe.

While remaining optimistic the other two people had survived, NSW Fire and Rescue Superintendent Paul Johnstone acknowledged that hope of finding someone alive was fading.

"We are picking through brick by brick," Supt Johnstone said.

"We still hold out hope that someone underneath may be alive. We're treating it as a rescue still.

"Though as the hours tick by, it's looking quite dire. It's a pretty horrific scene."

Bianka O'Brien, baby Jude, and another man are feared dead after a massive fire tore through a Sydney store underneath their apartments. Photo: AAP

He said the building had completely collapsed and the structures beside it were unstable.

The explosion is being treated as suspicious.

"At this stage, it's an arson," said Inspector Clive Ainley, the commander of the Leichhardt local area command.

"It's too early to speculate whether it's a homicide."

Authorities still hold out hope of finding survivors after a shocking explosion at a Sydney convenience store left three people unaccounted for. Photo: NSW Fire & Rescue

Police are reviewing CCTV footage of the blaze and investigators are looking into reports of a car fleeing the area after the explosion.

A massive explosion shook the inner-west suburb of Rozelle at 4am on Thursday and emergency services arrived to find flames billowing out of a convenience store.

Two people jumped from the first storey of the burning building while a convenience store employee was found buried under rubble and a commercial fridge.

Fire fighters had to use their hands to dig out the man who was in hospital in intensive care.

A witness said he saw the two men yelling for Mr Noble.

Ms O'Brien and baby Jude lived in a separate unit above the convenience store.

Ms O'Brien's distraught husband John, who wasn't home when the unit was swallowed by fire, arrived at the scene on Thursday morning.

Shocked friends are holding out hope the 31-year-old hairdresser will be found alive.

"She is an absolutely gorgeous person," one friend said.

Anthony Carroll, who lived in a neighbouring unit, fled his smoke-filled home with only the clothes on his back.

"I just grabbed what I've got on and got out of there," he said.

"There were people screaming and yelling and people trapped in the place next door so it was pandemonium."

"Our thoughts are with the families of those feared missing in the Rozelle fire," paramedics tweeted. Photo: NSW Ambulance

Like authorities, Mr Carroll wondered what started the blaze.

"It was convenience store, what is in a convenience store that causes that much of an explosion?" he said.

It took several hours for firefighters to render the smouldering building site and for specialists to make it safe enough to allow search and rescue teams in.

Rozelle residents were woken by the sound of explosions. Photo: 7News

Search dogs and cameras scoured the charred debris and by 5pm on Thursday, crews had searched a quarter of the site.

A firefighter was injured in the process, sustaining a facial injury while searching the debris.

NSW Fire and Rescue Superintendent Paul Johnstone said the whole building had collapsed and the rooms the missing people were in, don't resemble rooms anymore.

"We are still trying to find somebody but it's a dire situation that they find themselves in," he said.

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