At least 89 people have been killed and 42 injured after a gas cylinder exploded in a restaurant in central India, a police official has said.

The explosion occurred at around 8:30am at the restaurant in Jhabua district, in Madhya Pradesh state, as dozens of office workers and schoolchildren were having breakfast on Saturday, senior district police official Seema Alava said.

"The restaurant was in a tightly packed locality and a lot of people were here having breakfast, that is why the casualties are so high," Alava said.

Television footage showed scores of people and rescue workers using their bare hands to shift mangled heaps of steel and concrete of the crumbled buildings while police cordoned off the area.

 

Alava said the intensity of the blast knocked down a neighbouring building and damaged several others.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.

The DNA India news website reported that the Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babu Lal Gaur had already ordered an investigation into the explosion.

Another official from the district police control room, Anurag Mishra, cited the restaurant's proximity to a busy bus stand to explain the high number of casualties.

Domestic gas cylinder explosions are common in India, where safety standards are relatively poor.

Though reports of fatal accidents from cylinder blasts are frequent, mass casualties are unusual.

Source: Agencies