BEIJING (Reuters) – Several people were injured after a strong explosion destroyed a restaurant in Hebei province in China, badly damaging cars and leaving large debris scattered on surrounding streets, Chinese state media reported on Wednesday.

At about 8 a.m. (0000 GMT), an explosion occurred at a restaurant in Sanhe, a county on the outskirts of capital city Beijing, state broadcaster CCTV News reported.

Sanhe is located about 80 km (50 miles) from Beijing.

The injured have been sent to hospital, and it is unknown if there are any dead, according to CCTV. It is suspected the explosion was caused by a gas canister, it reported.

The Langfang Fire Rescue Detachment said an explosion and fire broke out in a street shop near the intersection of Xueyuan Street and Yingbin Road in Xiaozhanggezhuang village, according to a statement.

The department said it immediately dispatched 36 vehicles and 154 people to the scene, adding that the fire was under control and rescue work was being carried out.

The blast happened just after the closure of high-level government political meetings in Beijing.

Videos on social media platform Weibo showed a large orange fireball above the site of the explosion, followed by thick plumes of grey smoke. The video clips showed destroyed building facades, and numerous mangled cars and glass debris littering surrounding streets. Some objects were on fire, and the scene looked like a war zone.

One Weibo post wrote that a number of people said the explosion occurred near the Cultural Building in Yanjiao, Sanhe.

The Sanhe City Emergency Management Bureau sent an investigation team to the scene, and the Langfang City Emergency Management Bureau said the fire department was also at the explosion site, according to social media posts.

(Reporting by Bernard Orr and Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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