India police hunt for explosives’ owner after deadly blast

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Police were hunting Sunday for the owner of an illegal cache of explosives blamed for a massive blast in a crowded restaurant in central India that left more than 80 people dead.
The explosion, one of the worst such accidents in recent years, on Saturday morning tore through the restaurant building complex in central Madhya Pradesh state, packed with office workers and school children having breakfast.
Scores of laborers waiting at a bus stand outside the complex were also hit with shooting debris from the blast that destroyed neighboring buildings in the town of Petlawad.
“The official death toll is 88, but the actual number may be higher, nearly 100. That will be confirmed soon,” senior Jhabua district police official Seema Alava told AFP by phone.
Some 100 people were also injured, the official said, as rescue workers wrapped up their search for more victims buried in the steel and concrete wreckage.
A witness, Saurabh Jain, told the Hindustan Times newspaper’s website that the restaurant was packed as normal when the blast occurred.
“People were screaming and shouting. Some were crying, ‘I’m dying, I’m dying, please help me’,” the 23-year-old said.
Sharmila Kataria, 40, described a “horrible sight” in the aftermath of the explosion.
“When my eyes adjusted to (the) rising dust, all I could see was bloodied bodies and body parts strewn over a large area,” she told the website.
Alava said police initially blamed a gas cylinder in the restaurant for the main explosion. But it now appeared gelatine sticks and other explosives illegally stored elsewhere in the complex accidently detonated, triggering a chain reaction, she said.
“It was the other way around. The explosives in the building exploded first… the extreme heat sparked a… chemical reaction and then that was it. Everything went off after that,” Alava said.
She said police were searching for a suspect known as Rajendra Kasawa, who has been on the run with his brothers since Saturday, to question him over his deadly stockpile of sticks, detonators and urea.

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