China says 'criminal elements' responsible for deadly blast

As many as 108 people are dead and 38 injured after a series of explosions destroyed four apartment blocks in the northern Chinese city of Shijiazhuang, state television reported Saturday.

The television station said an initial police investigation shows "criminal elements" were responsible for the explosions in the centre of China's cotton textile industry. The apartments appear to have housed workers.

One of the explosions struck a block away from the Communist Party headquarters. Another brought down one of a line of small five-storey apartment blocks.

Friday's explosions were so powerful some people living nearby believed an earthquake had struck.

Police cordoned off the city of 1.3 million Friday, restricting people including several foreign reporters from entering the city.

All that is left of the four building are piles of rubble. Bouquets of flowers have been left and local residents say they think everyone who lived in the buildings is dead.

Police say they think they know who is responsible and are looking for a suspect. A motive for the attacks wasn't given.

However, organized crime, which was wiped out after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, has re-emerged over the last twenty years.

Some local government and police have been accused in state media of co-operating with crime bosses and the government is investigating two massive, multi-billion dollar corruption and tax frauds.

Seven people were sentenced to death in one of the cases earlier this month and the former national deputy police chief is accused of taking bribes from smugglers. He's also facing the death penalty.

It is the second time in six months Shijiazhuang has been rocked by explosions.

In September, a series of small, home-made bombs injured 28 people when they detonated in department stores and buses.

A man executed for the crime. At the time, there were unconfirmed reports linking the explosions to crime syndicates battling for control of the public transport system.