LAHORE, Jan 23: As many as 37 people suffered burns, suffocation because of inhaling smoke and wounds caused by shards of broken glass in a ‘cylinder’ blast at a food outlet in H-Block, Phase I of Defence Housing Authority on Wednesday.

However, police put the figure at 22 with two of the injured critical and suspected the blast was caused by gas leakage.A majority of the victims were restaurant employees who were preparing afternoon meals at the three-storey outlet situated in the posh locality at the time of the blast.

Witnesses and police said the impact of the blast was so intense that it not only damaged the restaurant but also affected at least 15 other shops nearby.

According to some witnesses, panic gripped the locality as most of the people initially thought it was a bomb blast.

Rescue 1122 and Edhi ambulances shifted 19 of the injured to the National Hospital and Lahore General Hospital and provided first-aid to 18 others.

According to a Rescue 1122 spokesman, the injured transported to the hospitals were identified as Asmat, Riaz, Sabir, Farooq, Israr, Kashif, Zareef, Sarfraz, Asif, Abdul Jabbar, Qasir, Afzal Abbas, Anayat, Nazir, Aziz, Basharat, Mushtaq and Abdul Latif.Spokesman Karamat Ali told Dawn that preliminary findings suggested that a gas cylinder lying in the kitchen of the restaurant exploded with a bang following which a fire broke out. He said the fire gutted a portion of the kitchen and also affected some adjacent sections, adding more than one LPG cylinder were being used by the staff.

He said the explosion was so intense that the rescuers could not even find remains of the exploded cylinder.

Ali said one firefighting vehicle and over a dozen ambulances rushed to the spot on an emergency call around 12:30pm and took part in rescue operations. He said the whole operation was completed around 2:20pm.

Cantonment SP (Operations) Maroof Safdar Wahla said the blast occurred because of gas leakage from the Liquefied Petroleum Gas cylinders lying in the kitchen situated on the first storey of the building.

He said the police couldn’t find splinters and remains of the cylinders which suggested involvement of some other factor that caused the blast.

Wahla said environment department had also been approached to trace any violation of the relevant law before taking legal action against the restaurant owner.

He said the police had been informed that an adjacent food outlet had also caught fire three times in the past, adding the safety standards of commercial properties would also assessed with the help of agencies concerned.

FIRE: A huge fire broke out in a plastic factory at Bisacu Chowk in Shahdara on Wednesday, burning down goods, machinery and other valuables.

The smoke caused by the fire hampered the rescue work besides causing suffocation to those living nearby. No loss of life or injury was reported in the blaze.

According to Rescue 1122 personnel involved in rescue work the cause of the blaze could not be known so far.

Three firefighting vehicles, one ambulance and special rescue vehicle took part in the operation that lasted for more than an hour.

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