At least 89 people were killed Saturday at a restaurant in central India when a cooking gas cylinder exploded and triggered a second blast of mine detonators stored illegally nearby, police said.
The restaurant, located next to the main bus station in the town of Petlawad in Madhya Pradesh state, was crowded with dozens of office workers and schoolchildren having breakfast when the blasts occurred around 8:30 a.m., senior district police official Seema Alava said.
Rescue workers extricated dozens of bodies from under a huge heap of rubble, said Mewa Lal Gond, a police inspector in the mining district of Jhabua, where Petlawad is located. Roughly 100 other people were hospitalized with injuries, he said.
Gond said the detonators were stored illegally in a room adjacent to the restaurant. The explosive materials are used by miners for blasting operations. There are several manganese and bauxite mines in Jhabua district, and many mine workers are hired on contract from Petlawad and nearby areas.
Television footage showed scores of people and rescue workers using their bare hands to shift mangled heaps of steel and concrete of the crumbled buildings while police cordoned off the area in the town, which is about 590 miles south of India's capital New Delhi. Alava said the intensity of the blast knocked down a neighboring building and damaged several others.
Arun Sharma, a state health official, said doctors at a government hospital in nearby Jhabua conducted autopsies of 60 victims. The bodies were then handed over to the victims' families.
Police struggled to keep hundreds of onlookers and people looking for their relatives away from the site of the explosions, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media.
The crowds hampered the movement of ambulances and other emergency vehicles, and officers had to push them back to allow a bulldozer to reach the restaurant.
Domestic gas cylinder explosions are common in India, where safety standards are relatively poor. Though reports of fatal accidents from cylinder blasts are frequent, mass casualties are unusual.