25 killed and 33 injured as explosion rips through Chinese karaoke bar

Thursday, July 5, 2007

25 people were killed today and 33 were injured when a large explosion ripped through a karaoke bar in Tianshifu, Liaoning Province, China. The state-run Xinhua news agency says the cause of the disaster is under investigation. Four people are reported to be in a serious condition.

Originally, Xinhua reported only five fatalities, but as rescue workers continued to move away debris, the full extent of the death toll was discovered. Xinhua has also reported that several employees at the bar, as well as the wife of the owner, were being questioned. According to a philly.com article authored by The Associated Press, Xinhua failed to state whether this was as witnesses or as suspects in any potential criminal activity, but the Shanghai Daily said that Xinhua had reported the people had been detained as suspects. The owner himself, Mr. Qu, was killed in the blast.

Investigators say they are currently unsure if the blast was purely accidental, or if foul play was involved, as all efforts were initially focused on attempting to locate survivors. The two-storey building, which also housed a bathhouse, was completely leveled by the blast. In addition, several cars were buried under the debris and windows in nearby buildings were shattered by the pressure wave. A power cut in the area was also caused by the blast due to damage to the local electricity network.

77-year-old local resident Chen Xiaohong, who lives 50 metres from ground zero, described the explosion: "I was watching my grandson finishing his lessons. Suddenly, we heard a big bang, then the door burst open from effects of a powerful shock wave and the lights went out... We were lucky not to have been hurt." Meng Xianling, who runs a seafood stall located down a narrow lane opposite the site of the accident building, commented that "I was afraid the parlor's boiler would explode. Mercifully, it didn't."

China has been the location of many disasters in both public and private places, such as fires and explosions. Earlier this year, an unsafe arrangement with a two-ton steel ladle resulted in the Qinghe Special Steel Corporation disaster, in which molten steel was accidentally poured into a room full of workers, killing 32. The majority of China's accidents stem from a combination of lax safety regulations and negligence, and accidents continue regularly despite promises by the government to prevent them.