A Birmingham house destroyed by a suspected gas explosion was empty at the time of the blast, emergency services believe.

West Midlands Fire Service said repeated searches of the debris of the property in Handsworth had failed to find any sign of casualties.

The explosion in Holly Road on Tuesday was attended by specialist fire crews and paramedics trained in urban search and rescue attended the incident.

"The initial 999 calls reported an explosion and when crews arrived, they found an end terrace property had suffered massive damage with the roof sitting at the level of the first floor," the spokesman said.

Debris was strewn across the road and one car parked in the street was damaged. The ambulance service spokesman said: "The wreckage has been searched with thermal imaging cameras, listening devices and specialist sniffer dogs and it appears as though the building was unoccupied at the time.

"A contractor who had been doing work on the property was accounted for elsewhere."

The wreckage of the house will now be handed over to council demolition experts.

"Given the level of damage, it is extremely fortunate that the property was empty at the time otherwise we would almost certainly have had deaths at the scene," the spokesman added.

The blast happened at about 3.40pm and about 40 residents in neighbouring houses were evacuated as police cordoned off the street.

Cordons were put up on Holly Road at the junctions with Crick Lane and Thornhill Road, while a number of neighbouring properties were evacuated "as a precaution".

The city council said it set up an emergency rest centre at Handsworth Leisure Centre, off Holly Road, for evacuated residents.