According to local officials, the explosion occurred at around 6.30 am local time in Zhangwan district of Xi’an city of Hubei province.
Officials have rescued 138 from the area, including 37 seriously injured, quoting local officials, according to state-run news outlet CCTV.
The city’s municipal office initially said that “several” people were trapped after the incident.
Images circulating on social media, seemingly from the scene, showed rescue workers in orange jumpsuits working through the rubble of flat houses.
The cause of the crash is being investigated, according to the city government, which said on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo that it was organizing rescue efforts.
This story has been updated.