Thu, 17 Jan 2019

PETLAWAD, India - More than 85 people were killed Saturday when a cooking gas cylinder exploded in a crowded restaurant in central India, triggering a second blast of mining detonators that were illegally stored nearby, police said.

The initial explosion tore through the restaurant as labourers sat down for breakfast during the morning rush hour in the town of Petlawad, located about 800 km (500 miles) south of New Delhi.

Inspector Mewa Lal Gaur told Reuters that people who had gathered outside the restaurant after the initial blast were killed and injured in a second explosion when gelatin sticks stored in a nearby building caught fire and blew up.

Many of the dead were killed when the roof caved in, while others were buried alive and suffocated to death.

"When the first blast took place in the gas cylinder many people collected there to watch and see what had happened," Gaur said, adding the explosion was so powerful it damaged adjacent buildings and ripped out nearby windows. "Then there was a secondary blast."

Bodies lay amid the rubble of the collapsed restaurant located next to a busy junction, and twisted motorcycles and debris were strewn outside.

A crowd of onlookers searched for survivors and police said the death toll had risen throughout the day as bodies were pulled from under the rubble.

Arun Sharma, a local medical officer, said 87 people had been killed. Some 100 people were also injured in the blast, and 15 of them were in a serious condition, he said.

"This is a tragic incident, which has shook me," Madhya Pradesh's chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told local media. "The causes of the incident will be investigated."

Chouhan said 200,000 rupees ($3,000) in compensation would be provided for the families of those killed and 50,000 for those injured.

Gaur said the detonators, which are used for construction activity, mining and digging wells, were not allowed to be kept in the room near the restaurant. He said it was illegal to do so even if the owner was given a licence.

A number of manganese and bauxite mines are located in the district surrounding Petlawad.

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