Neighbours in Rödinghausen were woken up shortly before 3.30 a.m. on Christmas Day by the huge explosion which completely levelled the house.
As soon as a fire which started in the wreckage was put out, police working with dogs started the grim task of trying to find survivors – or bodies.
But after hours of searching, authorities said none of the 16-member family appeared to have been at home.
The Neue Westphälische regional newspaper said on Sunday that the eight adults and eight children normally lived in the house.
More than 220 emergency workers responded to the incident, evacuating several nearby houses and moving the people to a school for a few hours until thick smoke had cleared.
An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the explosion.