updated 5/3/2005 6:44:19 AM ET 2005-05-03T10:44:19

Gas cylinders exploded in the basement of an apartment building as residents slept early Tuesday, causing the three-story structure to collapse. At least 25 people were killed and 20 injured.

A dozen others were feared trapped under the debris, police chief Aftab Cheema said.

Survivors said the building’s owner ignored repeated requests to remove the cylinders.

“We always feared that it would happen one day,” said Sardar Ahmed, 34, who had been sleeping on the second floor.

The owner, a retired academic, could not be reached for comment.

The dead included eight people from the same family, Cheema said. He said police do not know yet what caused the cylinders to explode.

As well as apartments, the building housed a small ice cream factory employing a dozen or so men who usually slept on the front lawn but had stayed inside last night because of heavy rain.

Mohammed Afzal, the official in charge of the rescue operation, said the blast happened around 3 a.m. and was heard around Lahore, the main city in eastern Pakistan.

“We are using cranes and bulldozers. We are very careful because some people are still believed buried in the rubble,” he said, as relatives wailed and cried for their loved ones.

Three or four nearby homes were damaged, as were several cars.

“First I heard a big explosion, and then saw the roof falling. I don’t know what happened next, but when I opened my eyes, I was on a hospital bed,” said one of factory workers, Munib Ahmad, 25, recovering at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital.

Mayor Mian Amir Mahmood ordered an investigation but said he had received no complaints about gas cylinders in the building.

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