Blaze fight:

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By HUANG ZHILING in Luzhou huangzhiling@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Fire­fight­ers bat­tle a blaze at a shop­ping mall in Luzhou, Sichuan prov­ince, on Thurs­day night. Four peo­ple died and 40 oth­ers were in­jured af­ter the fire, trig­gered by a nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sion, spread to the ground and sec­ond floors.

A fire caused by a blast of nat­u­ral gas at a shop­ping mall in the busiest com­mer­cial street in Luzhou, Sichuan prov­ince, on Thurs­day night, killed four and in­jured 40 peo­ple as of press time on Fri­day.

The dead in­cluded three men aged 22, 45 and 55, and a 25-year-old woman. One of the men was a se­cu­rity guard at the shop­ping mall. The woman had been watch­ing a movie and died af­ter in­hal­ing toxic gas in the af­ter­math of the fire.

Xiao Zhe, another movie­goer, said many in the the­ater thought the sound of the blast came from a 3-D film and did not get up to leave.

The fire, which broke out at about 10:40 pm, dis­rupted the nat­u­ral gas sup­ply in the city of more than 5 mil­lion peo­ple for 14 hours.

The cause of the blast was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, al­though some be­lieved it hap­pened when work­ers were re­pair­ing nat­u­ral gas pipe­lines, ac­cord­ing to Wang Tian­quan, an in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer in the city.

Ac­cord­ing to Huang Cheng, an em­ployee of the Huitong Depart­ment Store op­po­site the Mo’erma Shop­ping Mall: “I was pre­par­ing New Year’s gifts for VIP clients of our store when I heard the deaf­en­ing sound of a blast. Some­body shouted, ‘Mo’erma Shop­ping Mall had a blast, and it caught fire,’ I fled and saw flames and black smoke com­ing from the first three floors of Mo’erma.”

Liu Kunfu, a res­i­dent of the city, was pass­ing by the shop­ping mall with his 4-year-old grand­son. Shat­tered glass from the six-story mall buried him up to his waist. He was res­cued about a halfhour later when fire­fight­ers and am­bu­lances ar­rived.

“My grand­son was un­scathed, as I cov­ered and pro­tected him with my body,” said the 49- year- old, who re­ceived treat­ment for bruises and lac­er­a­tions in the lobby of the Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine Hos­pi­tal at­tached to Luzhou Med­i­cal Col­lege.

As of late Fri­day, smoke was still com­ing from the shop­ping mall, whose win­dows were gone. On­look­ers gawked out­side cau­tion tape around the dark­ened mall. Fire en­gines sur­rounded the center.

“Af­ter the blast, fire­fight­ers ar­rived at the scene and used wa­ter blast guns to ex­tin­guish the flames. The wa­ter from the guns shat­tered all the glass,” said Wu Jie, 27, a cleaner.

Dozens of clean­ers were sleep­less Thurs­day night wait­ing for the or­der to clean up the glass, he said.

The in­jured were be­ing treated in four hos­pi­tals in Luzhou.

Tan Zhip­ing, 28, was one of 12 in­jured peo­ple taken to the Hos­pi­tal At­tached to Luzhou Med­i­cal Col­lege. She suf­fered a frac­ture on her right hand.

LUO GUANGLIAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

PHOTO BY XIN­HUA

Peo­ple in­jured in the gas ex­plo­sion at a mall in Luzhou, Sichuan prov­ince, re­ceive treat­ment at a hos­pi­tal on Fri­day. Four peo­ple were killed and 40 in­jured in the blast.

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