At least 31 people were killed in an explosion at a barbecue restaurant in China’s northwest region of Ningxia, state-run media reported.
Seven were injured, including one in critical condition, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The cause is “a leak of liquefied petroleum gas,” CCTV said.
The blast happened during peak dining time on June 21, the eve of the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday when millions in China often gather and go out for meals with families and friends.
The restaurant is located on a busy street in Yinchuan, the provincial capital of Ningxia region, and is a chain restaurant brand that is well-known among locals, according to local media and residents. High school students and the elderly are said to be among the victims.
“We heard a loud explosion and thought it was caused by fireworks,” a resident told The Epoch Times on Wednesday. “The store’s window was blown up, and pieces of glass strewn across the street.”
Fuyang Barbecue Restaurant is a two-floor restaurant that is often full of customers, according to the resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, given the police “doesn’t allow us to take photos … or discuss it.”
She said the blast “slightly damaged” the two neighboring shops and affected people in the residential block behind, adding that these residents have been arranged to live in a nearby hotel for fear of another explosion.
Another resident said all shops on the street were ordered to shut down for the day.
The rescue work concluded early in the morning on Thursday, the authorities said.
The explosion prompted Chinese leader Xi Jinping to order a safety overhaul across China, calling on all regions to rectify safety risks and “hidden dangers.”
According to official media Xinhua, nine people, including the restaurant’s owner, employees, and shareholders, were arrested and detained.
Two restaurant staff said they had smelled the gas about an hour before the explosion and found that the valve of the liquefied gas tank was broken, state media reported, citing investigation records by the fire department and police. When another employee was replacing the valve, the explosion occurred, it said.
Accidents due to gas and chemical blasts are not uncommon in China.
In 2021, a gas explosion at a barbecue restaurant in the northeastern city of Shenyang killed at least four and wounded 47, with the powerful blast destroying the shop’s facade and shattering the windows of nearby buildings.
Hong Ning and Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times