Gas explosion in central China kills at least 12

The cause remains under investigation.

Scene of a gas explosion in Shiyan city in central China's Hubei province
Scene of a gas explosion in Shiyan city in central China's Hubei province

At least 12 people were killed and 39 others seriously injured when a gas pipeline explosion tore through a residential neighbourhood in central China on Sunday.

Emergency services responding to the early-morning blast in the city of Shiyan in Hubei province sent more than 150 people to hospital, according to officials quoted by state media.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.

Stall holders and customers buying breakfast and fresh vegetables in a food market were the main victims when the blast happened shortly after 6am, according to the reports.

The explosion struck a two-storey building constructed in the early 1990s, which includes pharmacies, restaurants and other businesses. More than 900 people were evacuated from the area.

Images showed rescuers climbing over broken concrete slabs to reach those trapped inside.

Rescue workers at the scene after an explosion in Shiyan city
Rescue workers at the scene after an explosion in Shiyan city (CCTV via AP)

The blast appeared similar to one that occurred in the north-eastern port of Qingdao in 2013, in which 55 people were killed when underground pipelines ripped open following a leak.

The Shiyan explosion came a day after eight people died and three others were injured when toxic methyl formate leaked from a vehicle at a chemical handling facility in the south-western city of Guiyang.

Frequent deadly accidents are usually traced to weak adherence to safety standards, poor maintenance and corruption among enforcement bodies. Those responsible are often handed harsh punishments, but high demand and the desire for profits often trump such concerns.

Among the worst accidents was a massive explosion at a chemical warehouse in the port city of Tianjin in 2015 that killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers. The blast was blamed on illegal construction and unsafe storage of volatile materials.

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