At least 12 people have been confirmed dead after a massive explosion in a market in central China on Sunday. It also injured 138 people, 37 of whom received treatment for severe wounds.
Authorities said they were still investigating the potential cause of the blast that occurred at around 6:40 a.m. in Shiyan, in the Hubei Province. Many residents shared pictures of the incident on social media.The photographs showed bricks and debris scattered across the street due to the extent of the damage to the buildings in the area. Many rescue workers wearing helmets and orange suits continued to look for trapped residents under the rubble.
Residents in the area were buying and selling products while some people were eating breakfast at the market shortly before the blast, reports said. The area where the explosion occurred is a residential area in the Zhangwan District. At least 913 households and merchants were evacuated from the scene of the incident, city officials said.
The rescue was directed by Hubei Governor Wang Zhonglin, who came rushing to the area after the blast occurred, authorities said. Gas pipelines, chemical factories, power plants, and older residential neighborhoods in the Hubei region were inspected for safety risks after Provincial Communist Party Secretary Ying Yong's orders, the New York Times reported.
The deadly incident brought many "profound" lessons to be learned, Chinese President Xi Jinping said afterward. Being aware of potential dangers and being ready for immediate emergencies create a favorable atmosphere, Xi also said in his statement, reported by Bloomberg.
Authorities said a gas pipeline is the first believed cause of the massive blast. Social media platforms went viral with video footage of the incident that showed the destruction of the market and nearly all of the windows and doors filled with debris.
The gas pipeline officials suspected of causing the blast ran underneath the building, which housed food stalls on the ground floor and residential flats on the second floor. Authorities called for residents for blood donations to help the victims of the incident, the South China Morning Post reported.
The massive explosion came a day after eight people lost their lives and three others were injured when a vehicle at a chemical handling facility leaked toxic methyl formate in the southwestern city of Guiyang.
Officials keep track of frequent deadly accidents to monitor weak adherence to safety standards, poor maintenance, and corruption among local enforcement agencies. Authorities often give out harsh punishments to people found responsible for skipping safety over their own agendas.
In 2015, a massive explosion at a chemical warehouse in the port city of Tianjin was considered one of the worst accidents in the history of the country. The incident took the lives of 173 people, most of whom were firefighters and police officers. Authorities said the deadly event resulted from illegal construction and unsafe storage of volatile materials.
President Xi conducted his speech regarding the incident ahead of the July 1 centenary of the Chinese Communist Party's founding. Officials are sending the message that the CCP is the only way to bring China to the leading role globally.