Speaking in Bosley, the leader of Cheshire East Council, Councillor Michael Jones, said: “Our prayers and hopes are that these missing people will be found alive and well but with the building collapsed we are obviously concerned”.

Six ambulances, two rapid response vehicles, an air ambulance and 15 fire engines were said to have attended the scene.

“It is also advised to avoid the area while we deal with the incident“, Carroll said.

Three people have been taken to hospital with burns and a major incident has been declared around the site at Wood Flour Mills on Tunstall Road.

Local residents have been warned to close their windows and doors because of the smoke.

“There are multiple casualties and reports up to five people are trapped in the building, which is on fire. “.

It is believed that as many as four people may still be in the wood treatment plant, Cheshire police confirmed to The Independent.

A 29-year-old woman has been airlifted to hospital in Birmingham suffering from serious burns and blast injuries to her head, face, arms and chest. “There is a fully developed fire in several areas”.

Student Charli Alston, 18, was walking her dog with a friend when she saw heard a “huge bang”.

“When I went outside you could see the huge pall of smoke and the flames leaping up from down near the works”, he told the BBC. “We could see the flames rising not far from us down the road from the mill“, she said.

The spokesman added: “We are now assessing the scene and working closely with other members of the emergency services, with our priority being to ensure people receive the medical treatment they need as quickly as possible”.

Smoke is understood to be billowing from the scene, south of Macclesfield.

A North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust spokesman said it was still too early to confirm the number of casualties. “Thought it was an earthquake”.

Local resident Charlotte Maher told Sky News: “We felt the house shake”.

A paramedic area support officer, a senior paramedic officer, Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) paramedics, a community paramedic, the Midlands Air Ambulance from Cosford with a MERIT trauma doctor on board, the Midlands Air Ambulance from Tatenhill, an emergency preparedness manager and two ambulances were sent to the scene.