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Residential blast kills at least 12 people in China

A gas explosion in a residential area in central China on Sunday killed at least 12 people and injured 138 others, 37 of them seriously, local authorities said.

The cause of the explosion, which occurred around 6:30 a.m. in Shiyan city in Hubei province, is still being investigated, according to the local government.

Photos released by official media showed bricks and debris scattered on the street and extensive damage to nearby buildings. Rescue workers in helmets and orange suits worked to free people trapped in the rubble.

The explosion occurred at a vegetable market that was already open for the day, according to local news reports that said people had bought and sold products and had breakfast.

Hubei Governor Wang Zhonglin was on his way to the scene to lead rescue operations, authorities said. Provincial Communist Party secretary Ying Yong called for gas pipelines, chemical plants, power plants and older residential areas across Hubei to be inspected for security risks.

In recent years, fatal explosions in industrial areas have led the Chinese authorities to tighten safety regulations. In 2015, explosions in a chemical warehouse in Tianjin, a northern port city, killed more than 170 people.

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