A barbecue restaurant in the northwest city of Yinchuan exploded on Wednesday night.
31 died and victims range from high school students to elderly people. Seven were injured and were treated for various cuts and burns sustained from the blast.
Local fire and rescue dispatched over 100 responders and 20 vehicles to the scene according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.
Cooking gas was determined to be the cause of the explosion which took place around 8:40 pm local time, peak dining hours in the areas according to locals. Employees noticed the smell of gas and saw that a gas tank valve had broken an hour before the explosion. The blast happened while an employee was attempting to replace the broken valve.
Rescue efforts lasted well into the next morning. The restaurant, Fuyang Barbecue, was located in a residential area of Yinchuan which is the capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The two-story chain restaurant was known for its skewers and stir-fried dishes. The area where the restaurant is located is primarily Muslim, with Muslims making up a third of the population in Yinchuan.
“A leak of liquefied petroleum gas … caused an explosion during the operation of a barbecue restaurant,” Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the regional Communist Party committee.
Accidents like this have been increasingly more common in China and are a result of “poor government supervision, corruption, cost-cutting measures by employers and little safety training for employees” according to NPR.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the incident “heartbreaking” and has ordered an overhaul of safety measures across the country in an attempt to find “all types of risks and hidden dangers”. Jinping went on to say that he “[demands] all-out efforts in treating the wounded and the strengthening of safety supervision and management in key industries and fields to effectively protect people’s lives and property”. He wants to launch a campaign that places an emphasis on workplace safety.
Beijing’s mayor, Yin Yong, believes more of a focus should be placed on rectifying fire hazards in public places such as restaurants.
Several deadly safety incidents occurred this year including a deadly hospital fire in Beijing that killed 29 and a coal mine collapse in February that killed 53.
People gathered in the area to celebrate the oncoming long holiday weekend. The Dragon Boat Festival is a Chinese holiday that takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar to commemorate the life and death of the famous scholar Qu Yuan. Traditionally, the day is spent eating rice dumplings, racing paddle boats, and dropping rice into the water. The races symbolize the efforts made the retrieve Yuan’s body from the water after he committed suicide.
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