Huge blast kills two, injures 26 in northern China

Huge blast kills two, injures 26 in northern China
Huge blast kills two, injures 26 in northern China

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Firefighters work at the scene of a suspected gas explosion in Sanhe, in China? northern Hebei province on March 13, 2024. — AFP pic

SANHE (China), March 13 — A huge, suspected gas explosion at a restaurant in northern China killed two people and injured 26 more today, state media reported, causing severe damage to buildings.

The blast occurred just before 8am (8am Malaysian time), state broadcaster CCTV said, in a residential area in the city of Sanhe, Hebei province, less than 50 kilometres east of the centre of Beijing.

Footage online circulated by state media showed a huge explosion that sent plumes of smoke and fire across a busy road.

CCTV reported at 1:30 pm that two people had since died and that 26 were injured. The fire has been extinguished, it added.

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The explosion was suspected to have been caused by a gas leak at a fried chicken shop, state media reported.

Two large buildings were completely destroyed in the blast, footage shared by the broadcaster showed, with rescue teams seen hauling away a car hit by the explosion.

Rescue workers can also be seen carrying away a large gas canister.

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Residents told AFP journalists they had heard a loud explosion before rushing outside to see a plume of smoke rising into the morning air.

“I heard a great big bang... which scared me stiff,” a seller at a local market told AFP.

“Outside, I saw clouds of black smoke,” they added.

Another seller said they also heard a “huge bang” from the blast site, in a bustling area of squat apartment blocks about six or seven floors high.

“The noise was too loud,” a vender surnamed Wang told AFP, adding she had heard a “second explosion”.

“When I saw many people were running there, I took a video,” a local man said.

“The smoke was thick but I didn’t see the explosion. When I reached the scene, there was still smoke,” he said.

Near the scene of the blast, an AFP team observed police waving oncoming traffic away from an entrance to the neighbourhood where the explosion occurred.

From a police cordon on the north side of the blast zone, they could see a tower of grey smoke a few hundred metres (yards) away.

AFP was refused access to the nearby Jingdong Zhongmei Hospital, where the victims had been taken.

A man who identified himself as the head of security for the hospital said staff were “all busy treating patients” and that local government permission was needed before AFP could talk to victims.

‘Destroyed’

The blast blew out shop facades opposite, footage shared on video-sharing site Douyin showed. The uploader told AFP the explosion took place 200 metres from her home.

Another social media video verified by AFP showed what appeared to be a building that had completely collapsed as well as several destroyed cars and debris strewn across the street.

The local Langfang fire department said 36 emergency vehicles and 154 personnel were dispatched to the scene.

A merchant working at a nearby store told state-run Jimu News she had been in her shop when she heard a bang.

She ran out of her store and saw a fire, she said, adding that the whole building had been “virtually destroyed”.

Explosions and other deadly accidents are common in China due to lax safety standards and poor enforcement.

A recent spate of such accidents has prompted calls from President Xi Jinping for “deep reflection” and greater efforts to stop them.

Last month, at least 15 people were killed and 44 injured in a fire at a residential building in the eastern city of Nanjing.

In January, dozens died after a fire broke out at a store in the central city of Xinyu, with state news agency Xinhua reporting the blaze had been caused by the “illegal” use of fire by workers in the store’s basement.

That fire came just days after a late-evening blaze at a school in central Henan province killed 13 schoolchildren as they slept in a dormitory.

Domestic media reports suggested the fire was caused by an electric heating device.

Last June, an explosion at a barbecue restaurant in the northwest of the country left 31 dead and prompted official pledges of a nationwide campaign to promote workplace safety. — AFP

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