DOHA, Qatar (AP) — An apparent gas explosion Thursday at a restaurant near a filling station in the Qatari capital killed 12 people and wounded several more, emergency services officials in the energy-rich Gulf nation said.
Initial indications suggested a burst natural gas tank atop a Turkish restaurant was to blame for the blast, which happened shortly after 10 a.m. near the popular Landmark Mall shopping center in the capital, Doha.
The force of the explosion caused the partial collapse of the Istanbul Restaurant and sent shrapnel flying as far as 50 meters (160 feet) away, authorities said. Officials are treating the explosion as an accident, though it is unclear what ignited the tank.
The 12 people reported killed were all Asian or Arab, said Maj. Gen. Saad al-Khulaifi, who heads the country's police force. He did not give further details on their identities or nationalities.
He said 31 others were wounded, some seriously. He vowed authorities would conduct a full and transparent investigation.
The civil defense director of operations, Hamid al-Duhaimi, said four people were found dead at the scene and the others died on their way to the hospital.
Alexandra Permuy, 25, a graduate student from Miami who lives nearby, was startled awake by the explosion.
"At first I thought it was just thunder ... but when I looked out the window there's not a cloud in the sky," Permuy said.
The restaurant had recently opened following renovations and is situated among a strip of eateries that get particularly busy late at night, she said.
Hamad Medical Corp., which manages eight hospitals and the national ambulance service, put out a call for blood donations on social media shortly after the blast happened.
Qatar is a small, wealthy Gulf Arab state with abundant reserves of natural gas that will host the 2022 World Cup.
The OPEC member state is generally safe, with little violent crime or civil unrest. Concerns have been raised about building safety.
A May 2012 fire in the Villaggio Mall killed 19 people, including 13 children at a daycare center inside. Investigators later blamed faulty wiring for the blaze.
Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.