TOKYO, Japanese police were investigating Monday the cause of a powerful blast that ripped through a restaurant in the country's north overnight, injuring 42 people and damaging surrounding buildings.
The explosion in the city of Sapporo on Sunday night started fires and
caused the partial collapse of some neighbouring buildings, forcing dozens of
residents into shelters, officials said.
The cause of the blast was still under investigation, police said, but
there were reports that it may have been a gas leak.
Some reports said fumes were leaking from spray cans that had been
collected for disposal at a real estate company in the building.
But investigators were also looking into at least nine propane tanks
installed in the building for the various businesses located inside.
Numerous customers at the restaurant on the building's first floor said
they smelled gas at the time of the explosion, Kyodo News agency reported.
The blast produced large flames and sent plumes of smoke rising in the
night air, with witnesses describing a terrifying boom.
The twostory wooden building, which also housed a clinic, was seriously
damaged, a Sapporo fire department official told AFP.
Police said 42 people had been injured, but there were no fatalities.
Among the injured were several children, as well as a man who suffered burns
and a woman who jumped from the building to escape, breaking her leg in the
There was an enormous sound, 'bang', then when I looked up at the sky it
was filled with plumes of smoke, an elderly woman said in footage on public
The ceiling fell, then the entire second floor collapsed and we were all
stuck. We managed to escape after everyone kicked through the wall, a person
who was in the restaurant at the time told Kyodo.
The fire from the blast spread to neighbouring buildings, and debris
blasted out by the explosion shattered the windows of nearby apartments and
restaurants, according to local reports.
We are investigating details about the damage together with police at the
scene, the fire department official said.
The blast happened around 8.30 pm (1130 GMT), and the city government
opened a shelter to house dozens of people whose homes were damaged.
The explosion also caused a temporary blackout, with 250 buildings losing
electricity, but power was later restored, he said.
The three tenants in the building were poorly prepared for possible fires,
Sapporo fire department official Takashi Shida told AFP.
We instructed them to improve these points during an onsite inspection
in October but they had not made progress, he said.
Many small and mediumsized older buildings in Japan are built partly or
entirely from wood and are vulnerable to fires.
In February, 11 people were killed in Sapporo after a fire broke out at a
home for elderly people with financial difficulties.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)