BEIJING: At least 31 people were killed when an explosion caused by a gas leak ripped through a restaurant in the northwestern Chinese city of Yinchuan, state media said
The blast occurred on the eve of the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday, when many in China go out and socialise with friends. Footage on state broadcaster showed more than a dozen firefighters working at the site as smoke poured out of a gaping hole in the restaurant’s facade.
Shards of glass and other debris littered the darkened street, which is also home to a number of other eateries and entertainment venues.
Nine people including the restaurant’s “owner, shareholders and staff” were held by police following the explosion, local media said, adding that “their assets have been frozen”.
“A leak of liquefied petroleum gas… caused an explosion during the operation of a barbecue restaurant,” a state news agency said.
Seven more people were receiving medical treatment, the agency said, with one of them in critical condition. Two others suffered severe burns, two had minor injuries and two had scratches caused by flying glass.
High school students and retirees were among the casualties, many of whom died due to suffocation likely caused by smoke inhalation.
The explosion took place at the Fuyang Barbecue Restaurant in a residential area of downtown Yinchuan, the capital of the Ningxia autonomous region.
President Xi orders probe
Chinese President Xi Jinping “demanded all-out efforts in treating the wounded and the strengthening of safety supervision and management in key industries and fields to effectively protect people’s lives and property.”
President Xi urged efforts to ascertain the cause of the accident as soon as possible and hold the relevant people accountable in accordance with the law. He said all regions and related departments should screen for and rectify all types of risks and hidden dangers.
The Ministry of Emergency Management said local fire and rescue services had dispatched more than 100 people and 20 vehicles to the scene in the wake of the blast.
Explosions and other deadly incidents are relatively common in China, where building codes are often poorly enforced and widespread unauthorised construction can make it hard for people to flee burning structures.
Three people were killed this month after a series of explosions caused by fireworks struck residential buildings in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin.
At least 17 people died in a fire at a restaurant in the northeastern city of Changchun in September last year. In January 2022, an explosion triggered by a suspected gas leak brought down a building in the city of Chongqing, killing more than a dozen people.
At least 25 people were killed in a gas blast that ripped through a residential compound in Hubei province’s Shiyan in June 2021, also striking a busy two-storey building packed with shoppers.