One dead, 22 injured in massive explosion in northern China

Last updated: March 13, 2024, 11:33 IST

People gather as they watch rescue operations at the site of a suspected gas explosion in Sanhe, in China’s northern Hebei province, on March 13, 2024. (AFP)

1 killed, 22 injured in gas explosion on outskirts of Beijing

One person was killed and 22 others were injured in a massive suspected gas explosion at a restaurant on the outskirts of Beijing during rush hour on Wednesday, state media reported, causing severe damage to buildings.

China has seen a number of deadly accidents in recent months, often caused by official negligence — with President Xi Jinping calling for “deep reflection” and greater efforts to prevent them.

State broadcaster CCTV said Wednesday’s explosion occurred just before 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) in a residential area in the city of Sanhe in Hebei province, 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the center of the Chinese capital. The broadcaster said one person was killed and 22 were injured, with suspicions that the explosion was caused by a gas leak at a fried chicken shop.

“I heard a huge bang… which scared me badly,” a vendor at a local market told AFP. “Outside, I saw clouds of black smoke,” he said. Another vendor said he also heard “a big bang” coming from the blast site in a bustling village of squat apartment blocks about six or seven floors high.

An AFP team at the scene also saw police diverting oncoming traffic from the entrance to the neighborhood where the explosion occurred. And from a police cordon on the north side of the blast area, they could see a tower of gray smoke a few hundred meters away, with a crane visible nearby.

– ‘The destroyed’ –

Footage circulated online by state media showed a huge explosion, sending a plume of smoke and fire across the busy road. Another video on social media, verified by AFP, showed a building completely collapsed along with several destroyed cars and debris scattered on the road.

Footage shared on video-sharing site Douyin shows the blast blowing off shop fronts on opposite sides of the ground. The uploader told AFP the explosion occurred 200 meters from his home. As rescue workers rushed to the scene, the local Langfang fire department said 36 emergency vehicles and 154 personnel had been dispatched.

“The fire is currently under effective control and rescue operations are underway immediately,” the Langfang Fire Department said. A trader working in a nearby shop told state-run Jimu News that she was in her shop when she heard a bang. She ran out of her shop and saw a building on fire, she said, adding that “the whole building was almost destroyed”.

– Accidents common –

Explosions and other fatal accidents are common in China due to lax safety standards and poor enforcement. 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 of people died in a fire at a store in the central city of Xinyu, which state news agency Xinhua reported was caused by “illegal” use of fire by workers in the store’s basement.

The fire comes just days after a late evening fire broke out at a school in central Henan province, killing 13 schoolchildren sleeping in a dormitory. Domestic media reports suggest the fire was caused by an electric heating device. And last November, a fire at a coal company office in northern China’s Shanxi province killed 26 people and sent dozens to hospital.

Last June, an explosion at a barbecue restaurant in the country’s northwest killed 31 people and led to an official pledge of a nationwide campaign to boost workplace safety.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – AFP)