Twenty-five people have been confirmed dead and 33 injured after a privately-owned karaoke parlor in northeast China was blown to smithereens on Wednesday night, local sources said on Thursday.
Rescuers found 25 bodies in the debris including parlor owner Qu, said an official in charge of the emergency.
Police have been questioning Qu's wife as well as staffers of the establishment.
The explosion happened at 8:50 PM on Wednesday at Tianying Karaoke Parlor, a two-storey roadside building where bath services were also operated, in Tianshifu Township, Benxi Autonomous County of Manchu Ethinic Group. Four of the injured are reported to be in a serious condition.
The township is dumbstruck by the event.
"I was watching my grandson revising his lessons. Suddenly, we heard a big bang, then the door burst open under the effect of a powerful shock wave and the lights went out," said Chen Xiaohong, a 77-year-old resident, who lives about 50 meters away from the parlor.
"We were lucky not to be hurt," he said.
Meng Xianling, owner of a seafood stall on the other side of a narrow lane from the parlor, and her 13-year-old son were woken by the huge bang Wednesday night to see shattered windows and asbestos shingles blown clean off the roof.
"I was afraid the parlor's boiler would explode. Mercifully, it didn't," she said.
Although the buildings on either side of the parlor did not suffer much damage, a row of two-story brick buildings directly opposite the parlor -- but some twenty meters away -- had their windows broken and roof tiles swept away.
The powerful explosion caused the entire parlor building to collapse in a 300 sq m heap of reinforcing steel and concrete, with several motor vehicles buried underneath.
Local residents told Xinhua that there was a temporary power cut in the township following the explosion, but by Thursday morning adjacent high-voltage power lines had been repaired.
Local government officials have ordered that every effort be made to help the victims and determine the cause of the blast.
Li Keqiang, secretary of the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), called for an investigation into the cause of the accident and ordered anyone found responsible for the explosion to be punished severely.
Also on Wednesday night, a fire swept through a cinema complex in Hengyang city in central Hunan province. The cinema manager died as he tried to evacuate the complex during the fire.
The man is the only confirmed death so far from the blaze that engulfed the Jinbu Cinema building in Hengyang City at 8:40 PM.
More than 100 people, including many children, were evacuated from the five-storey building.
(Xinhua News Agency July 5, 2007)