By Sam Panthaky
A powerful explosion triggered by a gas cylinder has torn through a packed restaurant in India, killing at least 85 people and injuring 100 others.
The restaurant building in central Madhya Pradesh state was being used to illegally store explosives that detonated in the blast on Saturday, vastly amplifying its impact and destroying neighbouring buildings, local authorities said.
"Initially we heard the sound of (fire) crackers ... a huge explosion took place forcing people to run for cover," Balram, an injured labourer, told Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency from a hospital.
The blast in the town of Petlawad occurred at about 8.30am local time as many office workers and schoolchildren were having breakfast in the restaurant.
Photographs from the scene showed corpses covered in dust and ash lying in the streets alongside the twisted wreckage of burned-out vehicles, as victims described seeing body parts strewn in the street.
Television footage showed scores of people and rescue workers using their bare hands to shift mangled heaps of steel and concrete of the ruined buildings while police cordoned off the area.
Police revised the number of people who died down to 85 after earlier reporting a higher toll, after clearing the debris of the destroyed restaurant and neighbouring structures.
"Earlier we thought it was 104 (people who died) based on various reports coming to us, but now our own official information says 85 confirmed deaths," M. L. Gond, an inspector in charge of Jhabua's police control room, told AFP.
A local magistrate gave the same toll.
"As for the site, it has been cleared and no more bodies are there," Ashok Jadhav said, adding that around 100 others were being treated for their injuries in various nearby hospitals.