At least 12 dead and hundreds injured after gas explosion in central Chinese city

At least 12 people were killed and 39 seriously injured in a gas pipeline explosion through a residential area in central China on Sunday.

The response to the early morning explosion in Shiyan City, Hubei Province sent more than 150 people to the hospital, according to a statement on the city’s official social media channel.

The statement said rescue efforts would continue, but made no comment on the cause of the explosion.

Stallholders and customers buying breakfast and fresh vegetables at a grocery store were the biggest victims when the explosion struck shortly after 6 a.m., according to state media reports.

Photos showed rescuers climbing over broken concrete slabs to reach people trapped inside.

The explosion was similar to the one in the northeastern port of Qingdao in 2013, which killed 55 people when underground pipelines were ripped open after a leak.

The Shiyan explosion occurred the day after eight people were killed and three others were injured when toxic methyl formate leaked from a vehicle at a chemical plant in the southwestern city of Guiyang.

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Frequent fatal accidents are usually due to poor compliance with safety standards, poor maintenance, and corruption by enforcement agencies. Those responsible are often punished with severe penalties, but high demand and greed for profit often trump such worries.

One of the worst accidents in 2015 was a massive explosion in a chemical warehouse in the port city of Tianjin, killing 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers. The explosion has been attributed to illegal construction and unsafe storage of volatile materials.

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