BEIJING, China– At least 16 people died when an explosion triggered by a suspected gas leak caused a building to collapse Friday in the Chinese city of Chongqing, state media said.


The blast at 12:10 pm (0410 GMT) brought down a neighbourhood committee building housing a canteen, trapping 26 people, the Xinhua news agency said.

In the early hours of Saturday, Xinhua put the new death toll at 16, with 10 more injured, one of them critically.

On Friday, the Chongqing government had put the initial death toll at nine.

Videos and photos from Xinhua showed orange-clad workers in hard hats climbing through the rubble on Friday night under floodlights.

Xinhua said in its latest update that as of midnight, all those trapped had been pulled out.

The injured people are receiving medical treatment, Chongqing authorities said through their verified account on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

Footage posted by state broadcaster CCTV on social media showed smoke and dust billowing from the collapsed building in Wulong district on the outskirts of the southwestern megacity.

The scene of the blast appeared to be in the middle of other buildings and was surrounded by a crowd of bystanders earlier on Friday.

Another clip by Xinhua showed dozens of rescuers in military fatigues jogging along a road to the site carrying shovels over their shoulders.

More than 150 fire and rescue workers have been deployed to the site, CCTV said.

Heavy lifting and excavation equipment have also been sent to the scene.

The cause of the blast remains under investigation.

-‘Blown to pieces’-

Local authorities set up an “on-site emergency response headquarters” to direct the rescue work and provide medical treatment, the state-run People’s Daily newspaper reported.

An eyewitness told state-run Phoenix TV that the blast was “very scary… our windows have all been blown to pieces”. Xinhua said people were having lunch when the blast occurred.

Officials have demanded the “fastest possible rescue” and ordered service personnel to “spare no effort to rescue the injured and strictly guard against secondary disasters”, the newspaper said.

Gas leaks and explosions are not uncommon in China, due to weak safety standards and corruption among officials tasked with enforcement.

In June, 25 people were killed in a gas blast that ripped through a residential compound and struck a busy two-storey building packed with shoppers.

Eight suspects, including the general manager of the company that owned the gas pipe, were detained after the government said “the company’s safety management system was unsound”.

The same month, 18 people were killed and more injured when a fire broke out at a martial arts school, with state media reporting that all the victims were boarding school pupils.