At least 31 people were killed and seven others injured when a massive cooking gas explosion ripped through a barbecue restaurant in northwestern China on the eve of the Drago Boat festival, official media reported on Thursday.
The blast happened at around 8:40 pm on Wednesday on a busy street in the Xingqing District of Yinchuan, due to a leakage of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from the operating area of a barbecue restaurant, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
Nine people, including the owner of the restaurant, were detained.
The explosion resulted in 38 casualties, with 31 people confirmed dead, while seven individuals, including one in critical condition, are currently receiving medical treatment, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regional Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) said.
The explosion took place on the eve of the two-day nationwide holiday of China’s Dragon Boat festival beginning on Thursday. The restaurant was reportedly packed with a holiday crowd.
The blast caused heavy damage to the surrounding buildings.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for an all-out rescue and treatment of the injured and a safety overhaul after a barbecue restaurant in Yinchuan.
Police have detained nine persons, including the owner, shareholders and staffers of a barbecue restaurant. The regional government has frozen their assets, Xinhua reported.
Yinchuan local government said on its social media account that the explosion occurred when the chef was replacing the valve on the gas tank after staff reported smelling a leak.
Xinhua reported that 64 families in the vicinity have been moved into hotels for safety.
According to local media reports, the restaurant was part of a well-known chain and covered two floors, with room for around 20 diners on the ground floor.
The more enclosed second floor had karaoke rooms, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
Barbecues are a popular dining style in northwestern China and it is likely that many of the restaurant’s patrons were celebrating the start of one of the country’s most popular festivals.
Gas blasts in restaurants and apartment buildings have been common in recent years in China.
The country has also seen a number of fatal incidents this year, which included a mining accident in February in the Inner Mongolia region killing 53 people. It was followed by fire in a Beijing hospital in April in which 29 people were killed.
A joint work team, including members from China’s Ministry of Emergency Management, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the State Administration for Market Regulation, was dispatched to the scene to guide the rescue work.
Four medical experts went to the scene with the joint work team to carry out emergency medical assistance.
The local rescue team dispatched 102 people and 20 vehicles to the scene and rescue operations ended in the early hours on Thursday, the Xinhua report said.
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is the home of China’s Hui Muslims.
China has about 20 million Muslims who are mostly Uyghurs, an ethnic group of Turkic origin and Hui Muslims who are of Chinese ethnic origin.