A massive explosion rocked the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar on Wednesday morning, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 50 others, according to local authorities.
The blast was caused by a collision between a truck carrying 60 tons of liquified natural gas (LNG) and a car near the Dunjingarav market, the Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on its website.
The impact of the crash ignited the LNG, which exploded with a force equivalent to 21 tons of TNT, according to NEMA. The explosion also triggered a fire that engulfed a nearby building, where many people were sleeping.
Firefighters and rescue workers rushed to the scene and battled the flames for hours. They managed to evacuate some of the survivors from the building, but many others were trapped under the rubble.
NEMA said that the death toll could rise as the search and rescue operation continues. The agency also warned of possible gas leaks and secondary explosions in the area.
The Mongolian government has declared a state of emergency and launched an investigation into the cause of the accident. Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and vowed to provide assistance to the affected people.
The accident has raised concerns about the safety of transporting and storing LNG in Mongolia, which has been increasing its use of the fuel in recent years to reduce its dependence on coal and improve its air quality.