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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Many dead in Pakistan gas blast
Survivor being pulled out of the rubble
Survivors heard a deafening bang
An explosion of gas cylinders in the basement of a building in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore has killed at least 26 people, police say.

Many others were injured in the blast, which damaged nearby houses, and rescuers are still searching for people who may be trapped under the rubble.

It is not clear what set off the explosions, though police say sabotage has been ruled out.

The building housed a small ice-cream factory as well as residential flats.

The blast occurred at about 0330 (2230 GMT) when many residents were asleep.

Devastation in Lahore

Police say that a lorry was delivering gas cylinders to the building, where they were kept in the basement, at the time of the explosion.

The BBC's Shahid Malik in Lahore says dozens of people have been killed in the city in the last five years in incidents involving use of residential premises for commercial purposes.

Rescue workers used cranes and bulldozers to remove the rubble.

Dazed survivors were pulled out from underneath huge concrete slabs.

"I heard a deafening bang, then it seemed like the world fell on me and then I passed out," one survivor, Mohammed Mushtaq, told the AFP news agency.

"The next thing I knew I was being pulled out of the rubble by rescuers several hours later."

'Toll could rise'

A spokesman for a local health service provider, Edhi Foundation, told the BBC that the number of casualties could rise.

One report says four women and two children were among the dead.

"The blast was so powerful that it broke window panes of nearby houses," a police official, Zubair Nawaz Chatha, was quoted as saying by AFP.

The injured have been moved to a nearby hospital, police say.

The provincial authorities have announced compensation for those affected by the blast.

Families of those killed will receive 150,000 rupees ($2,500), and the injured will receive 50,000 rupees ($840).

Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhri Pervaiz Elahi has also ordered an inquiry.

"If it is found that any unlawful activities were going on regarding the use of gas, punitive action will be taken against whosoever was responsible," he promised.





SEE ALSO:
Blasts hit Pakistan pipelines
08 Apr 03 |  South Asia
Blast hits Karachi petrol station
03 Dec 03 |  South Asia


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