HONG KONG — Thirty-one people were killed in an explosion at a barbecue restaurant in northwest China, authorities said Thursday.
The explosion was caused by a gas leak and occurred at around 8:40 p.m. Wednesday local time (8:40 a.m. ET) on a busy street in Yinchuan city, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China. according to Xinhua, the state of China. runs the news agency. Seven others were injured, one seriously.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the “rescue and full treatment” of the injured and tightened security measures, Xinhua reported. Nine people, including the manager and other staff members, have been detained and the restaurant’s assets have been frozen, the agency said.
The explosion took place on the eve of the three-day Dragon Boat Festival, a national holiday celebrated with sticky rice dumplings and rowing team boat races.
Photos of the scene released by state media show firefighters working through the rubble outside the badly damaged store and injured people being carried away on stretchers.
China’s Ministry of Emergency Management said in a social media post that search and rescue operations at the Fuyang Barbecue restaurant had ended early Thursday morning and an investigation was underway.
Explosions and other industrial accidents are not uncommon in China, where they are often blamed on corruption, efforts to save money, and a lack of safety training and supervision.
In January 2022, at least 16 people were killed by an explosion in an office canteen in the city of Chongqing that is also believed to have been caused by a gas leak.
A June 2021 gas pipeline explosion at a market in the central city of Shiyan killed 26 people, injured 138 and led to 11 arrests. In March 2019, 78 people were killed and 76 seriously injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in the eastern province of Jiangsu. In both cases, government officials accused the companies of negligence.
On Wednesday, 47 people who had been missing since a coal mine collapse on February 24 in China’s Inner Mongolia region were declared dead, Xinhua reported, bringing the total death toll to 53.
The Chinese government has treated security issues with more urgency since 2015, when a series of explosions in the northern port city of Tianjin killed 173 people and injured hundreds more. Authorities said they were sparked by an explosion at a warehouse that until two months earlier had been operating under an expired license to handle dangerous chemicals.