Indian police launch manhunt for suspect after blasts kill 88

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Police have launched a manhunt for a shop owner who illegally stored mining explosives that set off a series of blasts that killed 88 people in central India over the weekend, officials said Sunday.

The Saturday explosions at a restaurant in the town of Petlawad in Madhya Pradesh state were caused after gelatine sticks in an adjoining shop caught fire – not by a cooking gas cylinder blast as initially claimed by the police.

“Investigations show that a fire from an electric short circuit set off powerful explosions of the gelatine sticks,” district police officer Sima Alawa said over phone.

“The owner of the small flour mill who stored these mine detonators is on the run. We are carrying out raids to arrest him,” she said.

Local media reported that the shop owner and his family fled from their residence after the explosions.

Alawa said the man held a licence to use explosives for his mining business, but said he had stored them illegally.

The explosions occurred on Saturday morning, taking out a group of buildings located near a bus stand in a crowded residential area. Many of those who died had come to have breakfast at the restaurant.

The blast destroyed the shop and the two-storey building that housed the restaurant. Many of the 100 injured were being treated at local hospitals on Sunday.

State chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and senior officials who visited the blast site were met by angry protesters who demanded the arrest of the shop owner.

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