Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a thorough investigation into the cause of the massive gas explosion in the city of Shiyan, in central China’s Hubei province.
The death toll from the explosion has risen to 25. More than 100 people were injured, 30 of whom are said to be in serious condition.
The China Daily newspaper reported that 150 people had been rescued from collapsed houses. About 900 people had to be evacuated. The footage shows rescuers climbing over broken concrete slabs to find victims.
Most of the victims were market vendors and visitors to a food market. People were buying breakfast items and fresh vegetables there at the time of the explosion. All injured have been transported to the hospital. Authorities have set up a command centre in the affected residential area to assist the victims and search for people under the rubble.
The cause of the incident is still under investigation, the city authorities said. The disaster resembles an earlier explosion in the northeastern port city of Qingdao in 2013. 55 people were killed there when underground pipelines burst open after a leak.
Many of these accidents in China are caused by a lack of compliance with safety standards, poor maintenance and corruption in enforcement agencies. Although the guilty are often severely punished, little has changed in practice.
One of the worst accidents was a huge explosion in 2015 at a chemical warehouse in the port city of Tianjin, killing 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers. The blast was blamed on illegal construction and unsafe storage of volatile materials.
The explosion in Shiyan comes a day after eight people died and three others were injured when toxic methyl formate leaked from a vehicle at a chemical plant in the southwestern city of Guiyang.