At least seven people, including a newborn baby, have been killed following an explosion and fire which broke out in southwestern France.

The newborn baby was one of two children killed during the incident, according to local media reports.

The French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, is expected to travel to the scene later today.

He wrote on Twitter that he gave his “full support” to the emergency services, adding: “Thoughts to the victims and their loved ones.”

The Pyrenees-Orientales fire and rescue department said the explosion took place in the heart of Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque at around 1.30am.

It then caused a fire in the homes above a series of shops.

Images shared by the force online show the charred remains of an apartment block, with debris spilling out onto the street.

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Medical teams were also on the scene as more than 85 firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control.

Minister Olivier Dusspot travelled to the scene and echoed Mr Darmanin’s tribute.

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. The state is on their side,” he said.