At least 20 trapped as building collapse in explosion in China

Map locating Chongqing in China where a blast caused a building collapse on Friday.

At least 20 people were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building after an explosion on Friday in the Chinese city of Chongqing, according to state media.

The blast at 12:10pm (0410 GMT) was caused by a "suspected gas leak" and led to the collapse of a neighbourhood committee building housing a canteen, the state-run People's Daily reported.

People having lunch at the time were trapped, state news agency Xinhua said. Nine people have been rescued from the rubble so far, according to the fire department.

It posted a video on its official Weibo page showing orange-clad workers in hard hats climbing through a tangle of cables, bricks and concrete.

Some of the injured people have been taken to hospital for treatment, said Xinhua, without giving further details of their condition. Footage posted on social media by state broadcaster CCTV showed smoke and dust billowing from the collapsed building in Wulong district on the outskirts of the southwestern megacity.

The scene of the blast appeared to be in the middle of other buildings and was surrounded by a crowd of bystanders. Authorities have sent around 260 rescue workers and 50 vehicles to the site, CCTV said, adding that the cause of the blast was still under investigation.

Heavy lifting and excavation equipment have also been sent to the scene. Another clip by Xinhua showed dozens of rescuers in military fatigues jogging along a road to the accident site carrying shovels over their shoulders.

'Blown to pieces' 

Local authorities have set up an "on-site emergency response headquarters" to direct the rescue work and provide medical treatment, the People's Daily reported. An eyewitness told state-run Phoenix TV that the blast was "very scary... our windows have all been blown to pieces".

Officials have demanded the "fastest possible rescue" and ordered service personnel to "spare no effort to rescue the injured and strictly guard against secondary disasters", the newspaper said.

Gas leaks and explosions are not uncommon in China, due to weak safety standards and corruption among officials tasked with enforcement. In June, 25 people were killed in a gas blast that ripped through a residential compound and struck a busy two-storey building packed with shoppers.

Eight suspects, including the general manager of the company that owned the gas pipe, were detained after the government said "the company's safety management system was unsound".

The same month, 18 people were killed and more injured when a fire broke out at a martial arts school, with state media reporting that all the victims were boarding school pupils.