Ten fire engines and 72 firefighters and officers were called to a fire and suspected explosion at a block of flats on the A127 South Arterial Road at the junction of Ardleigh Green Road near Hornchurch this evening.
Part of the ground floor, second floor and roof of the block was damaged by fire and one end of the three storey building suffered a partial collapse. A specialist urban search and rescue dog from Essex Fire and Rescue Service was used to search the collapsed area.
Firefighters used a ladder to rescue a woman and child from the second floor and another woman was assisted to the ground floor by crews via an external staircase. A further 22 people were evacuated from the building and are now in the care of the local authority. London Ambulance Service took four patients to hospital.
Station Manager Paul McClenaghan who was at the scene said: "Crews worked hard to get the fire under control and are now making efforts to ensure the structure of the building is safe. Firefighters will remain at the scene damping down any remaining pockets of fire for some time."
Local road closures were in place and motorists and pedestrians were advised to avoid the area while the incident was on going.
The Brigade was called at 1714 and the fire was under control by 2204. Firefighters are likely to remain at the scene throughout the night.
Crews from Harold Hill, Hornchurch, Romford, Dagenham, Ilford, Barking, Wennington and other surrounding fire stations are at the scene. The cause of the fire and explosion is not known at this stage and will be the subject of an investigation.