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Death toll in Manila explosion rises to 6

    Debris littered the street around two vehicles after an explosion ripped through Serendra Condominium, visible in background, in a busy, upscale district of Taguig city, east of Manila.

MANILA » The death toll from a powerful explosion that ripped through an upscale apartment complex in the Philippine capital has risen to six, including the crew of a passing delivery van that was hit by debris, authorities said Saturday (Friday in Hawaii).

The explosion Friday night punched a large hole in the wall of the apartment building and sent concrete chunks flying onto the street below, which was teeming with pedestrians. Three people in the van were crushed to death.

The Office of Civil defense said three more bodies were recovered at the Serendra building, a plush condominium complex surrounded by restaurants and shops in Taguig city in metropolitan Manila.

Five others, including a 9-year-old, were injured.

Authorities were initially looking into a gas supply issue, and residents were kept out of other buildings as officials assessed the supply maintence.

A telephone operator at the Taguig city police station, who declined to give her name because she was not authorized to speak to the media, said the explosion came from an appliance and was not caused by a bomb.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited the site with President Benigno Aquino III, told reporters that the building was evacuated and all possible angles were being investigated. He said a forensic examination was not yet finished.

“This could be an accident, this could be an explosion of chemicals. This could be anything. Let us not speculate,” he said. He urged the public to refrain from speculating if the blast was linked to recent travel advisories issued by the U.S., British, Canadian and Australian governments for the restive southern Philippines, where they cited a risk of kidnappings and terrorist activities.

Muslim militants have targeted the Philippine capital in the past, but most attacks have been confined to the southern region, where minority Muslims have fought for self-rule for decades.

Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano and Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

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