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Gas suspected to have leaked overnight before explosion in Fukushima

Investigators examine the scene of an explosion in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on July 31, 2020, a day after the blast at a "shabu shabu"-style hot pot restaurant in an area with homes and restaurants. Apparently caused by a gas leak, the explosion left one person dead and 19 others injured. (Kyodo)

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Police and firefighters suspect propane gas leaked overnight and filled a restaurant under renovation before a deadly explosion there as they inspected the blast site in northeastern Japan on Friday.

    They also believe the accident, which left a construction worker dead and 19 others injured, occurred shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday, immediately after the worker entered the shabu-shabu hot pot restaurant in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, citing records kept by a security company, investigative sources said.

    Propane gas is suspected to have spread inside the building after work to install electrical outlets in its kitchen, which was not originally scheduled, ended at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the sources.

    More electrical outlets were installed to replace gas stoves with induction heating cookers at the kitchen, according to Colowide Co., which has the operator of the hot pot chain restaurant under its wing.

    The shop had been temporarily closed since late April amid the new coronavirus outbreak and was due to reopen next Monday, the company said.

    Investigators have found parts of the gas pipes installed inside the building were damaged.

    Some propane gas cylinders placed outside the building were also damaged, but the investigators believe they were impaired by the shock of the blast, according to the sources.

    Hiroshi Furukawa, a 50-year-old on-site supervisor responsible for the renovation work, was found dead at the explosion site and 19 others in their 20s to 80s sustained injuries.

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