Suspected gas explosion destroys eatery in Japan, hurts 42

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A suspected gas explosion destroyed wooden buildings housing a restaurant and a real estate office in northern Japan on Sunday night, injuring 42 people, police and local media said.

The powerful explosion in Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido, shook nearby buildings, shattered windows and scattered wooden debris across the area. Some residents told reporters they thought the blast was an earthquake.

One person was in serious condition, but police said the other injuries were mostly mild.

Police are investigating the cause of the explosion, which occurred in Sapporo’s Toyohira district. Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that a gas safety center official noted five propane gas tanks outside of the restaurant and two outside the real estate office.

The fire burned for nearly six hours, Kyodo said, and photographs and TV footage showed smoke rising above charred, collapsed debris as dozens of firefighters poured water onto the building. Windows on an apartment building next door were broken, and cars parked outside were partially covered with debris that had fallen on them.

A witness told Japanese public broadcaster NHK that he smelled gas after the sound of an explosion. NHK said neighbors of the building were being provided shelter overnight.

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