A gas cylinder explosion in the capital of the United Arab Emirates has killed two people and injured 120 others, police say, hours after authorities downplayed the incident and warned the public not to share images of the aftermath.
The explosion struck a restaurant just after 1pm in Abu Dhabi’s Khalidiya neighbourhood, just a few blocks from the capital’s beachfront corniche.
Initially, Abu Dhabi police vaguely referred to damage and casualties, showing pictures of glass and debris littering the street.
Six hours later in a tweet, Abu Dhabi police offered the casualties – 64 people with “minor injuries,” 56 with “moderate injuries” and two people killed.
“The injured were transferred to the hospital to receive necessary health care, with material damage to shops and facades of six buildings,” the police said.
They described an investigation into the blast as ongoing.
State-owned and state-linked media in Abu Dhabi also initially downplayed the blast as only damaging the facades of nearby shops in Khalidiya.
Abu Dhabi police had warned the public against sharing any footage of the blast’s aftermath in the country with strict laws on speech.
Already, authorities have threatened criminal charges against those who broadcast images of attacks on the country following a series of drone attacks on the capital by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The National, an English-language state-linked newspaper in Abu Dhabi, described the explosion as striking an unnamed restaurant after 1pm on Monday near the Shining Towers complex, a local landmark.
The UAE, a federation of seven desert sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, does face seasonal fires brought on by the intense heat that bakes the country each summer.
Temperatures hit 34C on Monday.
In February, authorities say a similar gas cylinder explosion struck the capital at the height of concerns over the Houthi attacks.