25 killed in karaoke bar blast

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-06 06:49

Twenty-five people were killed and 33 injured in an explosion at a privately-owned karaoke bar in Northeast China on Wednesday night, local sources said yesterday.

The blast at about 8:50 pm leveled the two-story building in Tianshifu Township, Benxi Autonomous County of Ethnic Manchu Minority. The town is about two and a half hours' drive from Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province.

An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.

The parlor owner, surnamed Qu, was among the dead; and four of the injured people are in critical condition.

It was not clear how many were in the building when the explosion ripped through the place.

The blast was so powerful that two people outside - one in a car and the other on a motorcycle - were killed. A car wash next to the parlor was also destroyed and the owner and his wife killed.

The entertainment venue offered karaoke, catering and bath services, and patrons were reportedly celebrating a birthday at the time of the explosion.

"Quite a few people were attending a birthday party at the karaoke bar and there were some pedestrians on the main road in front of the club, so the casualties were serious," a Xinhua report said.

Several cars parked nearby were severely damaged and the windows of many buildings in the vicinity were shattered and their roof tiles blown off.

The blast also caused a temporary blackout in the town and the power supply was only restored by evening yesterday.

"I was watching my grandson revising his lessons. Suddenly, we heard a big bang, then the door burst open under the force of a powerful shock wave and the lights went out," Chen Xiaohong, a 77-year-old resident, whose building is about 50 meters away from the parlor, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Li Keqiang, Party secretary of Liaoning, and Governor Zhang Wenyue urged local officials to spare no efforts to save the injured, find out the cause of the explosion and track down those accountable as soon as possible.

An injured man was quoted by Xinhua as saying that he first saw a fire break out, immediately followed by the explosion.

Rescuers found 25 bodies yesterday and were clearing the debris.

Police have been questioning Qu's wife and several of the staff members.

Also on Wednesday night, a fire swept through a cinema complex in Hengyang in Central China's Hunan Province, killing one person.

More than 100 people, many of them children, were evacuated from the five-story building.

Xinhua contributed to the story

(China Daily 07/06/2007 page1)

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