More than 30 people are dead after a gas explosion ripped through a barbecue restaurant in Yinchuan, a small city in the Ningxia region. The incident took place just before the Dragon Boat Festival, a three-day national public holiday in China.
According to state media, the explosion happened due to a leak in the liquified gas tank inside the restaurant. The incident took place at approximately 8:40 p.m. when the restaurant was filled with customers. The two-story building was immediately engulfed in flames and thick smoke. Debris and shattered glass also covered the street.
More than 100 firefighters rushed to the scene and were able to put out the flames in less than an hour. However, the search and rescue operations lasted well into the middle of the night.
However, it wasn’t until the next morning that the police announced the death toll. At least 31 people had perished in the explosion and seven additional were injured, one of whom is in critical condition. The others are being treated for glass cuts, burns, and minor injuries at the local hospital.
According to interviews by firefighters and police, at least two of the restaurant’s employees had smelled gas an hour before the explosion. After investigating, the two employees discovered that the valve of one of their gas tanks had broken off. They subsequently told a third staff member to buy a new one.
The restaurant, which is located on a busy street, eventually exploded while they were replacing the broken valve.
At the press conference, Tao Shaohua, the mayor of Yinchuan, apologized and expressed his deepest condolences to the families of those involved in the explosion. He also explained that they will be conducting further investigation into the incident and that they will be holding those responsible accountable.
The city will also be rolling out a one-month-long campaign to rectify safety risks, focusing on areas such as construction, mining, and gas.
According to Communist Party official Zhang Yupu, the deadly explosion exposed a number of hidden dangers such as low quality of inspection and inadequate implementation of safety regulations.
Just a few months ago, a coal mine in Mongolia collapsed, leaving 53 people dead. A hospital in Beijing was also hit with one of the deadliest fires in two decades, which killed 29 people.