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.
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.
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The two employees discovered the gas tank valve was broken and sent another employee to buy a new one, according to the report. The explosion occurred while the valve was being replaced.
The restaurant is located on a busy street, state media reported.
Police arrested nine people and froze their assets, including the restaurant’s manager, employees and shareholders, according to state media China Youth Daily.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the incident “heartbreaking” and a “profound lesson,” state broadcaster CCTV said on Thursday.
Ji added that it is important to treat the injured and comfort the families of the victims and find out the cause of the accident as soon as possible. He directed relevant government officials to conduct a security risk review and strengthen security monitoring in key sectors, CCTV 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.