MANILA: Six people were killed when a powerful explosion tore through a luxury apartment block in the Philippine capital, officials said, with the cause of the blast still under investigation.
A further five people were injured when the blast occurred late Friday in a fifth floor condominium unit in “the Fort”, a high-end residential district in the Manila suburbs.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a statement that the dead included “three unidentified male victims from Room 501 of Serendra Condominium”.
Three other people were killed when the delivery van they were in was crushed by a wall knocked out by the explosion, which sent huge chunks of rubble hurtling to the street below.
Debris from the building littered the area, with some pieces hurled dozens of metres (yards) by the force of the blast.
The area around the condominium remained cordoned off as police and fire investigators searched the building, whose residents had all been evacuated.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited the scene with President Benigno Aquino just hours after the incident, initially said three people were killed and four injured in the explosion.
He said it was too early to tell if the blast was due to a bomb or an accident and assured the public it would be thoroughly investigated.
The explosion took place just a few metres away from a popular area of restaurants, bars and shops that attract thousands of people at weekends.
Philippine civilians have in the past been targeted by bomb attacks, often carried out by the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group started in the 1990s with seed money from the Al-Qaeda network.
The 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila killed more than 100 people in the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.
However most of the Abu Sayyaf’s activities have been concentrated in the southern Philippines where the country’s Muslim minority is based.