TNT blamed for Chinese karaoke bar explosion that killed 25

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Monday, July 9, 2007

The Liaoning region of China

More than a ton of TNT stored illegally in the basement of a karaoke bar caused the recent explosion that killed 25 people and injured 41 more in the north-eastern Chinese town of Tianshifu, news reports say.

Qu Yujie or Yijie (known locally as Qu Hua), owner of the two-storey Tianying Karaoke Hall and Bath House which was levelled by the blast was amongst those killed. He was described as "a successful businessman" who owned a local colliery. Many residents of Tianshifu, where the blast occurred stated that he regularly used the basement of the building as a storage site for his explosives. His elder brother and his elder brother's wife were also among the deceased according to Benxi county government spokesman Fu Qingbin.

As part of a short statement regarding investigative results made available to state news agency Xinhua on Sunday, the following conclusion as in to the cause of the disaster was given: "After more than three days' efforts, we found self-ignition of the explosives led to the explosion,".

Reports state that there were many students celebrating the end of exams at the bar when the explosion occurred - eight teenage girls who were part of a group of 13 from a local department store celebrating a the 19th birthday of Sun Bo, including Bo herself, and several pedestrians outside the building were amongst the casualties of the disaster. The drivers of a truck and a motorcycle passing the building when it exploded were also killed, as were a couple who owned a car wash near to the site. The explosion also buried a number of cars under tons of concrete and blew out windows in nearby buildings.

Police estimated that over a ton of TNT was required given the force of the explosion, and noted that the explosives had been manufactured by a factory in the local area. This was backed up by the Beijing News quoting an investigator as saying "The explosion was so powerful that there must have been about one tonne of explosives,".

The coal mine the explosives were intended for is one of around 3-400 in the local area, which operate both legally with licences and illegally without. Detonators were also recovered from ground zero.

Relatives of the deceased are currently being put up at local hotels in preparation for compensation discusions with the authorities. Of the 41 injured survivors, all are still being treated in local hospitals, four with "serious injuries" and the remaining 37 with "fractures, chest injuries and broken ribs", according to one physician. One person suffered injuries of a severity that required him to be taken to the Benxi City Central Hospital, while the rest are in either Benxi County No. 1 hospital or at a hospital in Tianshifu itself, according to deputy director of the Benxi County Health Bureau Jiang Yongcheng. A dozen extra medical experts have also gone to Benxi County to help treat the victims.

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