At least 31 people have been killed and seven injured after gas used for cooking exploded at a barbecue restaurant in northwestern China.
The blast tore through the restaurant at about 8:40pm (12:40 GMT) on Wednesday on a busy street in a residential area of Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, as people gathered to celebrate the three-day holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
“A leak of liquefied petroleum gas … caused an explosion during the operation of a barbecue restaurant,” Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing the regional Communist Party committee.
Seven more people were receiving medical treatment, the agency said, with one of them in a “critical condition”.
Two others had suffered severe burns, two had minor injuries and two had scratches caused by flying glass, Xinhua added.
Footage on state broadcaster CCTV showed more than a dozen firefighters working at the site as smoke billowed from a gaping hole in the restaurant’s facade.
Shards of glass and other debris littered the darkened street.
The Paper, an online news outlet, cited one woman saying she had been about 50 metres (164 feet) from the restaurant when she heard the explosion. She told the publication she saw two waiters stumble out of t the restaurant afterwards, one of them collapsing immediately.
There was a strong smell of cooking gas, she said.
Nine people including the restaurant’s “owner, shareholders and staff” were held by police following the explosion, CCTV said, adding that “their assets have been frozen”.
Rescue efforts had wrapped up by 4am on Thursday (20:00 GMT on Wednesday), state media said.
Accidents due to gas and chemical blasts are not uncommon in China, despite years of attempts to improve safety.