This photo shows the damage at the site of an explosion in Houston, Texas, US, on Friday. Reuters
A massive explosion on Friday leveled a warehouse in Houston, killing two workers, damaging nearby buildings and homes and rousing frightened residents from their sleep miles away, authorities said.
The explosion happened about 4:30 a.m. inside a building at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, which makes valves and provides thermal-spray coatings for equipment in various industries, authorities said. The building was reduced to burning rubble and debris, and some of the surrounding buildings suffered heavy damage to parts of their walls and roofs.
Killed were employees Frank Flores and Gerardo Castorena, Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a Friday evening news conference. The two had arrived at their workplace early and were using its fitness gym when the blast happened, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
Authorities believed there were no other fatalities but another 20 people were injured, two other warehouse workers and 18 others from neighboring homes and businesses, Turner said. None of the injuries were thought to be life-threatening.
Acevedo had said earlier that a family member of one of those killed was a U.S. Marine currently training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and called on the Marines to let the man return to Houston.
Local and federal officials will be at the scene for the next three to four days working through the ruins to determine what caused the explosion, Acevedo said. Authorities don't believe the explosion was intentional though a criminal investigation is underway, he said.
Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said hazardous materials crews have secured the valve on a 2,000-gallon (7,571-liter) tank of propylene that had been leaking. Propylene is a colorless gas used to produce chemicals in plastics, synthetic rubber and gasoline. It is highly flammable and can explode in a fire. People exposed to propylene can become dizzy and light-headed, and the gas can also cause liver damage.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai also defended the Taliban's role in recent bloodshed across the country after US President Donald Trump cited an attack that killed an American soldier as his reason for calling off negotiations earlier this month.
Shortly after the bomber detonated the car laden with explosives, a group of insurgents stormed into the compound, setting of a shootout with Afghan forces.
The blast occurred on Thursday at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng, in Jiangsu province, and the fire was finally brought under control at 3.00am on Friday (1900 GMT), state television said.
The ministry also announced that 35 cases fully recovered from the virus, after receiving treatment, bringing the total recovered cases to 96.
The Ministry said a 62-year old Asian expat and a 78-year old GCC national who tested positive for COVID-19 died due to complications related to chronic diseases. This brings death toll to eight.
"Considering the problems of overseas Pakistanis it has been decided that the first flight would land at Islamabad International Airport on April 4. All passengers will be sent in quarantine and tested for COVID-19. Those tested negative will be sent home through special arrangement of transport," Asad Umar said.