JHABUA: Ninety people were killed and over 100 injured, 20 seriously, when a cylinder blast at a tea stall packed with customers was followed by a massive blast that ripped through an adjoining building in Madhya Pradesh's Jhabua district on Saturday, police said.
An investigation has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the second blast that caused widespread destruction. Authorities did not comment on whether illegally stored gelatin sticks caused the explosion.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ordered a judicial probe into the explosions after Home Minister Babulal Gaur, who visited the spot, briefed him about the situation.
"The blast is a heart-rending incident and I have ordered a judicial probe into the blasts," he said, adding that he would request the Madhya Pradesh High Court to appoint a judge to probe the blasts.
Inspector M.L. Gaur of the Jhabua police control room told IANS: "Eighty seven people are dead, and the bodies of 60 of them have been identified."
"Post mortems of all the bodies has been completed. There are eight women and three children among the dead," he added.
Jhabua, located over 300 km from state capital Bhopal, is a tribal belt and on this fateful Saturday, a large number of labourers were milling around, waiting for buses.
The first blast took place at around 8.30 a.m. in the Petlavad area near the New Bus stand, quickly followed by a much bigger explosion.
The deafening blasts were so powerful that they reduced buildings to rubble and left many bloodied and wounded.
Home Minister Gaur said: "The blast took place due to gas cylinder explosion."
On whether there were explosives in the building, Gaur said: "The matter needs to be probed and an order in this regard has been given."
A witness said the ear-splitting explosions took place in quick succession, with the first taking place at the tea stall and the second bringing down the adjoining building.
The roar of the explosions was heard for kilometres.
"I heard the blasts and ran towards the spot. Dust hung over the area. Bodies were scattered all over the place. A girl was crying and she was rescued," said Babu Lal, a witness.
Another local said the damage from the explosion at the tea stall was comparatively less than the severity of the destruction caused by the second blast.
Dazed locals scrambled to help the wounded, who shrieked in pain. Some of them died on the spot.
TV visuals showed the enormity of the blasts, with nearby buildings suffering extensive damage. People could be seen sifting through the rubble to extricate those who were buried.
"An explosion took place in a tea stall on Saturday morning. After that, another explosion took place in a two-storey building," Jhabua Additional Superintendent of Police Sima Alva told IANS.
Alva added: "Many people were injured in the incident."
There were unconfirmed reports that gelatin sticks, used in mining, were stored in the building as illegal mining takes place in the area.
Chief Minister Chouhan expressed grief but declined to comment on the cause of the blasts. He said that Chief Secretary Antony DeSa has been asked to look into the matter.
The chief minister also announced compensation of Rs.2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and Rs.50,000 to the injured.
A team of experts from Indore reached Jhabua following the blasts.