At least 42 people have been injured in a massive explosion at a busy restaurant in northern Japan.
The explosion occurred at about 8.30pm local time in Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido.
Police say at least one person is in a critical condition, with all the injured being treated at nearby hospitals.
Video of the incident posted on social media showed flames and dark smoke billowing into the night sky and people scrambling to safety beside a street strewn with debris and shattered glass.
Images later showed firefighters tackling collapsed buildings, while police sealed off the area amid fears of further explosions.
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The cause of the blast is still to be determined, but nearby residents reported smelling gas in the area, broadcaster NHK reported.
“I heard a bang which sounded like thunder, and my condo was shaken,” a man who lives nearby was quoted as saying by the Japan Times.
NHK said the area affected was home to both residential and dining establishments and was about 3km south-east of the city centre.
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The Sapporo fire department told CNN that more than 20 fire engines were deployed.
The number of reported injuries was also tipped to rise as the recovery operation at the site continued, Sho Saikoku of the Sapporo fire department, was quoted as saying.
NHK said the Sopporo local government would to set up a shelter for neighbours of the restaurant to stay overnight so they could escape the smoke.