India blast: At least 89 killed after gas explosion in packed restaurant ignites illegal store of mining detonators

Madhya Pradesh's chief minister has announced compensation of 200,000 Rupees (£2,000) will be paid to each of the victims' families

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The Independent Online

Scores of people died when a gas cylinder exploded at a packed restaurant in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, setting off an illegal store of mining detonators nearby, police said.

The blast ripped through the diner in the town of Petlawad during the busy breakfast rush, and ignited sticks of gelatin, an explosive used in mining, being stored in an adjacent room.

"When the first blast took place in the gas cylinder, many people collected there to watch and see what had happened. Then there was a secondary blast," said Inspector M. L. Gaur from the Jhabua district police force.

At least 89 people were confirmed dead after the restaurant and neighbouring structures collapsed, but the death toll is likely to rise as rescuers worked into the evening to retrieve bodies from the rubble.

Medical officials in the state said around 100 people were injured in the blasts, which occurred close to Petlawad’s main bus stand.

Television footage showed crowds gathered at the wreckage of the buildings amid the remains of burnt-out motorcycles, with many scouring the debris to search for survivors.

Onlookers were blocking the path of a bulldozer and other emergency vehicles attending the scene, officers said.

"This is a tragic incident, which has shaken me. The causes of the incident will be investigated," Madhya Pradesh's chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told local television channels.

He announced compensation of 200,000 Rupees (£2,000) would be paid to each of the victims' families.

“Extremely pained at the loss of lives due to the cylinder blast in Jhabua.  My deepest condolences to the families of the deceased,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a statement posted on Twitter.

There are several mines in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, with many workers hired from the town of Petlawad, around 500 miles south of the capital, Delhi.