Explosions rocked two Internet cafes in central China, killing two people, injuring four others and leaving the premises spattered with blood and littered with broken glass and other debris, a local official and state media said yesterday.
Authorities refused to say if bombs were involved in the blasts, which occurred on Friday night about 10 minutes apart at two cafes within meters of each other in Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province. No motive was immediately apparent for an attack on the premises.
Such incidents are rare in China, although explosives are widely available and reports of their use in criminal acts have risen in recent years.
"The casualties include two dead and four injured people," said a man who answered the telephone at the Hefei City government office. He refused to give his name or any other details.
"This is a serious matter and the cause is still being investigated," he said.
An officer at the public security bureau in Hefei who gave only his surname, Li, said he "wasn't clear" if explosives had been detonated.
A woman who answered the telephone at the Hefei First Aid Center, where the injured were taken, would not release details on them.
Chinese local government officials frequently refuse to identify themselves to reporters because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
China has the second largest Internet population after the US, with more than 100 million users. Even the smallest towns have cybercafes, which are often packed with young people chatting online or playing games.
The Ju Xing and Hao Yu Internet cafes are located about 10m from each other on Meiling Avenue, one of Hefei's main streets, said the state-run Anhui Daily newspaper on its Web site.
The blasts drew hundreds of onlookers to the site, it said. The official Xinhua News Agency said they happened about 9:30pm.
A woman who was walking past Ju Xing at the time of the explosion said she saw glass and cement spray from the cybercafe, according to Anhui Daily.
"When we heard the first explosion, we thought firecrackers were being set off," an unnamed resident was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "The second one went off about 15 minutes later. It was very loud. It sounded like a bomb exploded."
Another resident said they saw panicked customers running out after the first explosion. A girl in her 20s covered with blood screamed "What's happening?" before collapsing, the newspaper said. She was later helped away by passers-by.
Inside Ju Xing, "blood, glass and cement covered the floor," the report said.
News photos showed gloved officers sifting through the rubble, which included overturned chairs, computers, chunks of concrete and shards of blue glass. Iron bars on the windows -- a common security feature in Internet cafes -- had been twisted by the explosions and pipes were exposed in the ceiling.
Ju Xing had about 70 to 80 computers while Yu Hao had about seven small rooms that could accommodate 10 people each, Anhui Daily said.
The second explosion happened in one of the small rooms, leaving a meter-wide crack in the ceiling, it said.
A customer, who was identified only by his surname Liu, said he was using a computer in Ju Xing when he heard a loud bang and felt pain in his face.
He said the inside of the room "was like a whirlwind," with glass and cement flying everywhere.