Three people lost their lives and another two were injured in an explosion in Catania on Tuesday.

Italian media reported that two of those who died were firemen.

The explosion is believed to have started from a gas leak in a bike repair shop in Via Garibaldi.

When neighbours noticed a strong smell of gas coming out of the shop, they called the fire brigade. But as soon as the firefighters attempted to cut the chain to enter the shop, a spark was released and the entire building went up in flames.

Five firefighters had to be taken to hospital but two died shortly after arriving at Vittorio Emanuele Hospital. Another two suffered extensive burns and were admitted to Garibaldi Hospital. One of them also suffered a head injury, while the other has been diagnosed with a pulmonary trauma, Italian media reported.

The fifth firefighter suffered shock.

The charred body of another victim, a man over 80 who lived in the building, was found in the rubble.

An inquiry is being held.