At least 87 people were killed after explosions ripped through a packed restaurant in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, police said.
Another 100 were injured as the two-storey building housing the restaurant in the town of Petlawad collapsed after the blasts.
Police said that, after a cooking gas cylinder burst at the restaurant, gelatine sticks used for mining stored in a house next to the restaurant also blew up, causing the huge impact.
Eight women and three children were among the dead, inspector ML Gond, manning the regional police control, said by phone.
“After the initial explosion, many people came to see what had happened. Witnesses said the subsequent blast claimed more lives,” Gond said.
Police said the rescue teams had completed the search for survivors trapped in the debris and that the injured, several of whom were in serious condition, had been moved to nearby hospitals.
Petlawad, located in the mining district of Jhabua, is some 300 kilometres from state capital Bhopal.
District police official Sima Alva said the explosions at the restaurant, situated in a residential area near a bus stand, exacted a heavy toll, as the eatery was crowded and a large number of people were waiting for buses outside.
Images on television showed locals scrambling to help the wounded, many of whom were crying out in pain.
Bodies covered in dust and ash lay in the streets alongside wrecked and burned vehicles.
“I heard the blasts and ran toward the spot. Dust hung over the area. Bodies were scattered all over the place. A girl was crying and she was rescued,” Babu Lal, a witness told the IANS news agency.
Rescue workers and people used their bare hands to move mangled heaps of steel and concrete.
“There were huge explosions. None of the in a 500 square foot radius of the blasts could survive,” top district official Aruna Gupta said.
Local media reported that the explosions reduced the restaurant and three adjoining houses to rubble. Local authorities carried out evacuations in nearby buildings in the town.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences on Twitter.
“Extremely pained at the loss of lives…My deepest condolences to the families of the deceased. I wish all those injured a speedy recovery,” he wrote.
State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has ordered a probe into the incident and announced compensation for the families of the victims and injured.