Seven killed in internet cafe blast

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 December, 2010, 12:00am

Dangerous chemicals stored next to an internet cafe in Guizhou exploded late on Saturday night, killing seven and injuring 37 others, local police said.

The Lianxun Internet Cafe in Kaili , which had 140 computers, was reduced to ruins by the explosion of chemicals stored illegally in an adjacent room, Xinhua reported.

Rescue work at the site is now complete, and the 37 wounded have been identified. Of those hurt, there were nine with severe injuries. Xinhua said the injured were admitted to local hospitals and remained in a stable condition.

Xinhua quoted an 18-year-old with facial burns, Long Jiuke, who arrived at the internet cafe half an hour before the blast to chat with friends online. 'Around 11pm, there was a loud bang and I felt crushed by the power of the blast,' he said.

'The next thing I knew, several broken desks were wedged against my body, and I had to force my way through the ruins to crawl out of the cafe.'

An initial investigation by Guizhou's provincial public security department yesterday found only one of the 45 people in the cafe was untouched by the blast and fire.

The disaster obliterated the cafe and shattered windows in nearby residential buildings.

The authority traced the source of the explosion to packets of hazardously high concentrations of aluminium chloride and sodium nitrite stacked by the wall of the chemicals shop next to the cafe.

A Kaili municipal spokesman said police also found bottles labelled nitric acid, chlorhydria and petroleum ether at the site.

Police detained a man named Wu Zhanzhi for illegal possession of dangerous chemicals, while cafe boss Chen Chenggui and manager Xing Guangchang remained in custody under police questioning.

A further investigation of the incident is under way.

The mainland has a history of disastrous fires and explosions in coal mines and public areas such as karaoke bars, dance halls and video parlours due to lax safety standards. Blocked fire exits, badly maintained equipment and poor management of chemicals are common factors that push casualty rates higher.

Explosives are widely available for industrial use - such as mining - as are various types of fuels.

In 2007, an explosion at the Tianying Karaoke Hall in Benxi county, Liaoning province, killed more than 25 people, flattened a two- storey block and caused extensive damage to neighbouring buildings.

And in one of the worst fires on the mainland in the past decade, a blaze at a disco in Luoyang , Henan province, killed at least 309 people on Christmas Day in 2000.