DOHA // At least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded yesterday when a gas tank exploded at a Turkish restaurant in Qatar's capital.
Initial indications suggested a burst natural gas tank atop the restaurant was to blame for the blast, which happened shortly after 10am near the popular Landmark Mall shopping centre.
The force of the explosion caused the partial collapse of the Istanbul Restaurant and sent shrapnel flying as far as 50 metres away, authorities said.
Chunks of masonry, metal debris and shattered glass lay outside the restaurant in a northwestern district of the city. Cars apparently crumpled by the explosion stood nearby.
Officials are treating the explosion as an accident, though it is unclear what ignited the tank.
The 12 people killed were all Asian or Arab, said Maj Gen Saad Al Khulaifi, who heads the country’s police force.
“It was a very big blast,” he said. “It blew away cars and the shrapnel scattered 50 or 100 metres away.”
Gen Al Khulaifi said 31 people were wounded, some seriously. He said authorities would conduct a full and transparent investigation.
At least one of the dead is a Filipino, Al Jazeera reported, quoting a source at the Philippines Embassy. The source also said at least four Filipinos were wounded.
The civil defence director of operations, Hamid Al Duhaimi, said four people were found dead at the scene and the others died on their way to the hospital.
Sheikh Khalifa, the President, sent his support to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Al Thani, over the blast and his condolences to the families of the victims. Sheikh Khalifa wished a speedy recovery of those injured.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, sent similar messages of support.
Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kareem, an Indian driver, was in hospital after being wounded from the blast while eating at a different restaurant nearby.
“I was eating in a restaurant close by and suddenly heard a big blastand everything around me exploded,” he said. “I have too much damage now, my legs are broken and my head is open.”
Alexandra Permuy, 25, a graduate student from the US who lives nearby, was startled awake by the explosion.
“At first I thought it was just thunder ... but when I looked out the window there’s not a cloud in the sky,” Permuy said.
The restaurant had recently opened following renovations and is situated among a strip of restaurants that get particularly busy late at night, she said.
Hamad Medical Corp, which manages eight hospitals and the national ambulance service, put out a call for blood donations on social media shortly after the blast happened. The website Doha News reported that dozens of people flooded hospitals to give blood.
Building safey in Qatar was brought into question in May 2012 after a fire in the Villaggio Mall killed 19 people, including 13 children at a daycare centre inside.
A member of Qatar’s ruling family was among five people sentenced to prison by a court last year for negligence over the fire.
Authorities said the blaze was caused by faulty wiring.
* Reporting by Associated Press, Reuters and Wam