90 dead as explosion rips through restaurant in MP’s Jhabua

At least 90 people were killed and over 150 injured when an explosion ripped through a packed restaurant near a bus stop in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district on Saturday.

Chief medical officer Dr Arun Sharma told HT “So far, 90 people have been killed in the explosion and till now, we have performed the autopsy of 82 people.”

The reason for the blast was not immediately clear but sources said it may have been triggered by gelatine sticks, used for mining, that were stored along with LPG cylinders in a nearby home.

The blast occurred in the town of Petlawad at around 8:30am when dozens of office workers and schoolchildren were having breakfast at the restaurant. “People were thrown away like pebbles in the air due to the explosion,” said a witness.

The death toll is likely to rise as the intensity of the blast reduced three houses and the restaurant to rubble, leaving several people trapped in the debris.

The death toll is likely to rise as the intensity of the blast reduced three houses and the restaurant to rubble. (HT Photo)

Television footage showed scores of people and rescue workers using their bare hands to shift mangled heaps of steel and concrete of the ruined buildings while police cordoned off the area.

Bodies covered in dust and ash lay in the streets alongside the twisted wreckage of burned vehicles.

A district police official, Anurag Mishra, cited the restaurant’s proximity to a busy bus stand as a reason for the high number of casualties.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed pain over the loss of lives in the explosion in Madhya Pradesh.

“Extremely pained at the loss of lives due to the cylinder blast in Jhabua. My deepest condolences to the families of the deceased,” he tweeted. “Wish all those injured a speedy recovery. MP Government is monitoring the situation closely.”

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also took to Twitter to express his sadness at the loss of life. “The Jhabua tragedy is heart wrenching. I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and pray for the speedy recovery of those injured,” Chouhan said.

He offered compensation of Rs 200,000 to the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 to help the injured victims.

District collector Aruna Gupta said it was too early to ascertain the exact reason for the explosion. “It’s a matter of investigation. Our first priority is to treat the injured who have been referred to hospitals in Dahod, Ratlam and Jhabua.”