Guangzhou Probes Warehouse Blast 'Near Schools'

Safety experts say toy pistols containing gunpowder should never have been stored in the neighborhood.

Firefighters work to put out a fire after an explosion struck a warehouse in Guangzhou, Sept. 10, 2013.

Authorities in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou have detained three people amid an investigation into a warehouse explosion that killed seven people and injured dozens of others, official media reported on Wednesday.

Rescue work at the site of the blast, which is believed to have been caused by the detonation of explosive gunpowder caps used in toy pistols, was continuing on Wednesday, with three more bodies recovered from the wreckage, the official Xinhua news agency quoted police as saying.

Tuesday's blast rocked a shoe warehouse in the Ezhangtan area of Guangzhou's Baiyun district as workers were unloading goods from a container truck at 11:50 a.m. local time.

"Three people, including a Jordanian, the owner of the goods, have been detained by police," Xinhua said.

Investigation has shown that the explosives were toy pistols, the production and circulation of which is forbidden in China, police said.

At least 36 people were injured in the blast, and were taken to a nearby hospital, Xinhua said. By noon on Wednesday, all were in a stable condition, and 15 had been discharged.

Investigation underway

An official at the Guangzhou urban management department surnamed Lin confirmed the blast had taken place.

"[On Tuesday] at noon, there was an explosion on Ezhangtan road in Baiyun district," Lin said. "We are unsure whether traffic has returned to normal in the area."

Lin said investigators were sifting through the debris at the blast site, which is in the same neighborhood as a middle school, an elementary school and a kindergarten, for clues, which included a large number of gunpowder caps from toy guns.

Liang Biqi of the natural disaster research center at Guangzhou's Zhongshan University said there were strict rules forbidding explosive materials within the vicinity of schools and colleges.

"Warehouses in the vicinity of schools are forbidden to store any kind of chemical or explosive goods," Liang said.

"If the relevant authorities don't investigate this further, then they themselves should be investigated."

Guilin blast

The Guangzhou blast came just one day after an explosion outside a school in the southwestern Chinese city of Guilin killed at least two people and injured dozens more, some of them schoolchildren.

Guilin residents said the Balijie primary school in the city's Lingchuan county had remained closed, and calls to the school went unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

City authorities have yet to make a public announcement about the cause of the explosion, which local residents have said could be a revenge suicide attack.

The Hong Kong Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China quoted local sources as saying that the Guilin blast was caused by a disgruntled petitioner, while some posts on local websites said the blast was linked to a dispute over a child's schooling, while others claimed it came after the death of a child inside the Balijie school.

An employee who answered the phone at the Guilin municipal propaganda department said further information would be "released through news channels" when available.

Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.