ORURO, Bolivia – The death toll in a gas explosion in the western Bolivian city of Oruro rose to eight on Sunday, and 34 people remain hospitalized with injuries, authorities said.
The head of the Provincial Health Service in Oruro, Jesus Ignacio, told EFE that eight people had died in the blast and 23 of the injured are in hospitals there, while nine others were transported to hospitals in La Paz.
Four of the eight fatalities were children, including a two-year-old and a teenager.
Among the “very seriously” injured is a five-year-old boy, who was taken to La Paz, and several other injured people were admitted to the Ophthalmological Institute there after suffering “eye trauma,” he said.
The injured admitted to hospitals in Oruro included people suffering “multiple injuries and bruising” due to the blast wave, Ignacio said, adding that 40 people actually were injured but several of them had suffered only “slight bruising” and did not require hospital admission.
He also said that firefighters with the Bolivian Police had “confirmed” the initial hypothesis: that a gas leak resulted in an explosion at a street vendor’s food stall.
Most of the injured transported to La Paz suffered facial trauma, eye damage, second and third degree burns and multiple injuries from shrapnel or other blast debris.
Meanwhile, Bolivian Police criminal and forensic specialists, along with explosives experts, firefighters and National Hydrocarbons Agency technicians were dispatched to the scene to conduct the investigation.
The initial hypothesis of the police had always been that cooking oil spilled from a pan, causing a gas cylinder to overheat, leak and then explode at a streetside eatery in the city of 285,000 on the Andean altiplano.
Although the explosion occurred near the grandstand where the Oruro Carnival parade passed by with thousands of people in attendance, all the dead and injured apparently were in the street market and not among the parade spectators or participants.