Pakistan blast was gas leak, not bomb: Officials

LAHORE • An explosion that killed seven people and caused panic in the Pakistani city of Lahore was caused by a gas leak and not a bomb as police had earlier stated, according to officials yesterday.

The blast on Thursday wounded dozens in the provincial capital, already on edge after a suicide attack just 10 days earlier killed 14 people, part of a deadly wave of militant violence that has rippled across Pakistan this month.

Multiple police and administration officials had earlier stated on the record that the explosion in a posh area of the eastern city, which blew out windows and crumpled cars, was a bomb.

But amid rumours and speculation, the authorities revised their assessment at a press conference in Lahore yesterday.

"Yesterday's explosion was an accident. It was not caused by explosives or a result of terrorism," Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah said yesterday.

"The presence of gas cylinders and leakage has been confirmed on the site," he continued. "We got the forensic report this morning and the results and conclusions are that there was no indication of explosives or related materials."

Debris had blocked the forensics team from accessing the site, he said, while the analysis took up to eight hours.

Mr Sanaullah blamed the confusion on chaos in the aftermath of the incident, and suggested the authorities were considering reforming the provincial press department to streamline the flow of verified information. He also said the blast had killed seven people, not eight as officials had earlier stated.

Thursday's explosion sent panic through Lahore, where reports of a second blast were quickly debunked, and on social media, where users exchanged dire warnings purporting to be from intelligence agencies. The military later denied issuing the messages.

The rumours underscored growing nervousness across the country after a series of assaults shook Pakistanis emboldened by what had been a prolonged lull in violence.

Attacks over the last fortnight include a bomb in Lahore on Feb 13 which killed 14 people, and a devastating suicide blast at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province that left 90 devotees dead.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2017, with the headline 'Pakistan blast was gas leak, not bomb: Officials'. Print Edition | Subscribe