Manila mall info undercuts blast accident theory

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MANILA, Oct 24 (Reuters) The owner of a Manila shopping mall where 11 people died in an explosion last week signalled today that the blast may not have been accidental.

Ayala Land Inc has given information to the police that could throw into question the security force's preliminary theory that an accumulation of deadly gases had caused Friday's lunchtime explosion.

''There was nothing out of the ordinary,'' Jaime Ayala, president of the property group, told a news conference.

''There are no maintenance reports or observations by maintenance personnel of any aberrations to the diesel tank.'' Ayala declined to say what he thought had caused the blast.

At the weekend, the police said the explosion was caused by a bomb and they had found traces of RDX, a military-grade explosive, but on Tuesday they ruled out a terror attack and said they were looking at the possibility of a gas explosion.

Their probe is continuing.

Ayala said it was impossible for methane gas to have caused the explosion because there was sufficient ventilation and no accumulation of waste water at the mall's septic tank.

Experts have said the blast, which tore a large hole in the roof of the mall, could not have taken place without sabotage.

REUTERS ARB RAI1354

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