Blast kills five, wounds 40 in Philippine mall

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MANILA, Oct 19 (Reuters) A blast believed to be from a cooking gas cylinder killed five people and wounded at least 40 in a shopping mall in the Philippine capital Manila today, police said.

The blast, which occurred during lunch hour at the Glorietta shopping centre in the Makati business district, spread panic in the area, which has in the past been the scene of attacks by Muslim separatist rebels.

Police said the blast was likely caused by an exploding gas cylinder in a restaurant, but officials at the Manila international airport said they had declared a general alert.

Bomb squad exports were at the site to check the cause of the explosion, said Silverio Alarcio, operations chief of the national police.

''I was eating lunch when the ground shook,'' said a security guard who was nearby at the time of the blast. ''I thought it was an earthquake. Then the electricity went off.'' Police officials and hospital sources said five people were killed and at least 40 were taken to hospital, mostly wounded by glass shards. The wounded included two children, one police official said.

Ambulances and police were quickly at the scene, which was cordoned off. Wounded, some of them bloodied, were brought out on stretchers.

Blocks of cement had fallen from an upper storey of the shopping centre, hitting cars parked below and spreading a film of dust.

Earlier, hundreds of people had streamed out of the sprawling Glorietta centre after the blast.

Manila has largely been spared a spate of bomb attacks by Muslim rebels which have plagued the southern Mindanao region. But it has been hit in the past. A series of bomb blasts in 2000 killed at least 22 people.

Reuters SYU DB1258

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