China fireworks blast kills 13

2010-08-16 20:13
Soldiers take part in firefighting operation at a fireworks factory in Yichun, northeast China. (Wang Jianwei, AP)

Soldiers take part in firefighting operation at a fireworks factory in Yichun, northeast China. (Wang Jianwei, AP)

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Beijing - A massive explosion ripped through a fireworks factory in northeast China early on Monday, killing at least 13 workers, damaging nearby buildings and causing secondary blasts.

Up to 50 people were working at the fireworks factory in the city of Yichun in Heilongjiang province when it was rocked by the explosion, read a statement posted on the local government's website.

Xinhua News Agency reported the death toll rose to 13 after fires were put out and rescuers were able to safely enter the building.

A total of 148 people were injured by the blast, which could be felt up to 5km away and smashed windows in the local government offices and other buildings, the statement said.

The tally appeared to include workers at the factory as well as people in the surrounding area, but details were not given.

It wasn't known if all the workers had been accounted for. Calls to the local government and police rang unanswered on Monday.

Eyewitness' photos posted on the internet showed plumes of smoke curled above the plant.

Accidents common

Safety is lax at Chinese fireworks plants, and accidents are common.

Dozens of people also die each year from unsafe handling of fireworks while celebrating weddings and traditional holidays.

In another industrial accident on Monday, an elevator plunged on a construction site, killing 11 workers riding in it.

Investigators were looking into the cause of the elevator accident in the city of Meihekou in the north eastern province of Jilin. The elevator dropped as many as 12 stories, said a statement from the local government.

Improved safety

Although deadly accidents persist, China has placed an increasing emphasis on improving industrial safety.

Fatalities in the country's notoriously dangerous coal mines decreased to 2631 last year, compared with a peak of 6 995 deaths in 2002, according to official figures.

That works out to 7.2 deaths a day in 2009, down from 19.1 a day in 2002.
- SAPA
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