Emergency workers respond to a gas explosion at a barbecue restaurant in Yinchuan, Ningxia, China on June 21.
At least 31 people died and seven were injured in a gas explosion at a barbecue restaurant in the Chinese city of Yinchuan in the northwestern Ningxia region on Wednesday night, state media reported.
According to state broadcaster CCTV, the explosion was caused by a leak in a LPG tank inside the restaurant and around 8:40pm.
One of the seven injured is in critical condition. Six others are being treated in hospital with minor injuries, burns and glass cuts.
Local fire officials sent 20 vehicles and more than 100 personnel to the scene, and search and rescue operations continued until 4 a.m. Thursday, state media reported.
Photos released by state media show the damaged building, blackened exteriors, debris on the ground and smoke in the air. Firefighters can be seen entering the second floor on a ladder and lifting people out on stretchers.
Chinese President Xi Jinping He said the explosion was “heartbreaking” and a “profound lesson”. According to CCTV, he issued instructions to the authorities at the scene that “all efforts” were needed to treat the injured, strengthen security surveillance and protect the safety of residents.
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Interviews by police and firefighters at the scene confirmed that two restaurant workers smelled gas an hour before the explosion, the Yinchuan government said in a statement posted online Thursday.
The two employees noticed that the gas tank valve was broken and sent another employee to buy a new one. The explosion occurred while the valve was being replaced.
According to state media China Youth Daily, police have detained nine people and frozen their assets, including the restaurant’s manager, employees and shareholders.
The restaurant is located on a busy street, state media reported. The incident happened shortly before China began its three-day national public holiday from Thursday to Saturday, marking the Dragon Boat Festival.
The country has been rocked by several security incidents this year. The coal mine collapsed In Inner Mongolia in February 53 people died; Then in April, 29 people were killed in hospital in Beijing’s worst fire in two decades.