Road Violently Erupts After Suspected Underground Methane Explosion

Four people were injured in central China when a suspected sewer gas explosion caused a road to erupt underneath workers and passers-by.

Traffic cameras at an intersection in Wuhan, Hubei province, captured the unexpected moment in full just after 9 a.m. local time Thursday. A statement by the local government said all four victims were in stable condition.

The viral video being widely shared across Chinese social media platforms shows two workers crouched down next to an open manhole at the intersection of Kangfu and Chukang roads in Wuhan's Hongshan District.

Road Erupts After Sewer Gas Explosion
City officials in Wuhan, Hubei, China, and workers from the local utility company inspect an intersection following a suspected methane gas explosion on May 20, 2021.

As a man on an electric bike rides past the pair, a column of fire suddenly shoots out of the manhole and reaches several feet above the road surface. The momentary blast sends both workers' hard hats flying off their heads as they each turn to avoid the flames.

Just as they turn around, the asphalt beneath their feet begins to bulge and bursts open, leaving large cracks in the ground from which gas appears to escape, the video shows. Witnesses who hear the eruption turn and run the other way.

In the footage, the nearby e-bike rider has his back turned to the explosion and is unable to respond in time as the road beneath his feet violently erupts and throws him clean off his vehicle. The rider flies headlong toward the ground as the road settles once more and blast debris falls from the sky.

Road Erupts After Sewer Gas Explosion
Road Erupts After Sewer Gas Explosion
City officials in Wuhan, Hubei, China, and workers from the local utility company inspect an intersection following a suspected methane gas explosion on May 20, 2021.

Wuhan news portal Jimu quoted local residents who said they heard a "loud explosion" at the time of the incident. One store owner said she tended to the male victim who flew off his e-bike, and who was "conscious but howling in pain."

The Hongshan District Emergency Management Bureau said first responders reported four victims from the blast. According to an online statement put out on Weibo, they were taken to a local hospital for treatment but were not in life-threatening condition.

The fourth victim was not identified, but footage appeared to show a resident crossing the intersection at the moment of the explosion. It was unclear whether there were any people in the sewer at the time.

The district office's statement said the blast was not caused by a natural gas leak. The probability was ruled out by city inspectors sent by the local utility company, it said.

The authorities are reporting the incident as being linked to a suspected build-up of methane gas in the sewers. The two workers caught at the front of the explosion were conducting maintenance work of the underground water mains, the office said.

An investigation is ongoing into the precise cause of the ignition.

Road Erupts After Sewer Gas Explosion
This screen grab taken from a traffic camera video shows fire shooting out of a manhole in Wuhan, Hubei, China, moments before a suspected methane explosion causes an intersection to burst open.