Cooking Gas Explosion Kills 31 People at a Barbecue Restaurant in Northwestern China

BEIJING (AP) — A massive cooking gas explosion at a barbecue restaurant in northwestern China killed 31 people and injured seven, Chinese authorities said Thursday.

The blast tore through the establishment at around 8:40 p.m. Wednesday on a busy street in Yinchuan, the capital of the traditionally Muslim Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, as people were gathering on the eve of the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The festival is a national holiday devoted to eating rice dumplings and racing boats manned by teams of paddlers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded all-out treatment of the injured and a safety overhaul after the explosion, Xinhua reported.

Online news site The Paper cited a woman identified only by her surname Chen saying she had been about 50 meters (164 feet) from the restaurant when she heard the explosion. She described seeing two waiters emerge from the restaurant afterward, one of whom collapsed immediately, while thick smoke billowed from the restaurant and a strong smell of cooking gas permeated the area.

The Central Government’s Ministry of Emergency Management said on its social media account that search and rescue work at the restaurant was completed early Thursday morning and investigators were sent to determine the cause of the blast.

Industrial accidents of this type are a regular occurrence in China, usually attributed to poor government supervision, corruption, cost-cutting measures by employers and little safety training for employees.