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42 injured in blast at drinking establishment in northern Japan

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a bar where an explosion occurred in Sapporo's Toyohira Ward, on the night of Dec. 16. 2018. (Mainichi/Taichi Kaizuka)

SAPPORO -- At least 42 people were injured, one seriously, in an apparent gas explosion and a fire at an izakaya bar here in the capital of the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, according to officials at the municipal fire department and prefectural police.

The two-story building housing the Umisakura bar in Sapporo's Toyohira Ward was in flames, and its walls collapsed, injuring many and leaving some bleeding. Roofs and window glass from nearby buildings were shattered by the force from the explosion. All of the injured were hospitalized, police said.

A resident of an apartment building nearby said there was a loud sound followed by substantial shaking. "I thought it was a thunderbolt," they said.

The area where the explosion occurred is about 50 meters from Hiragishi Station on the Sapporo municipal subway's Nanboku Line. The area is home to many eateries, bars and shops.

(Japanese original by Shuntaro Sawa and Nozomi Genma, Hokkaido News Department)

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