Death toll from fireworks factory explosion rises to 19 in NE China

10:14, 17 August 2010

Any factories failing...

The death toll from Monday`s explosion at a fireworks factory in northeast China`s Heilongjiang Province has climbed to 19, with five missing and another 153 injured, local authorities said Tuesday, according to Xinhua.

The explosion occurred at 9:45 Monday morning at the factory in the Wumahe District of Yichun City. It killed nine of the factory`s 51 workers and injured 35, while five are still unaccounted for.

Another eight were killed and 35 injured when the explosion hit the neighboring Taiye Wood Factory.

The blast also killed two pedestrians and injured 83 residents near the factory.

The ensuing fire was largely brought under control Monday after a helicopter dumped water on the blaze.

As of 2 a.m. Tuesday, the fire had been largely extinguished but smoke still surrounds the area and 23 small fires are still burning within a 309-meter radius of the factory.

The situation is still severe and new accidents might occur, as there are three timber mills near the fireworks factory, a local government official said.

Fire trucks Monday hosed water onto other warehouses of the fireworks factory to prevent more explosions. But some think that could be risky.

"It might be dangerous to hose water at the scene as some explosives might detonate when hit by water," said Sun Huashan, the deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety who arrived in Yichun late Monday to lead the rescue work.

Sun urged other methods be used to prevent further explosions and fires.

Traffic near the scene has been restricted since Monday. No one apart from rescuers and fire fighters have been allowed near the scene since early Tuesday.

The fire spread to a chopstick factory Monday but it was brought under control.

More than 2,000 residents were evacuated after the explosion shattered windows within one kilometer radius of the factory.

Iron fences 100 meters from the factory were also damaged in the blast.

Witnesses said the shockwave of the explosion was felt up to five kilometers away.

More than 1,700 people and 62 fire trucks were dispatched to fight the blaze and search for survivors Monday.

Forty medical experts arrived in Yichun at around 10 p.m. Monday to help treat the injured.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Heilongjiang provincial work safety bureau said Tuesday they ordered an immediate carpet inspection over all businesses for producing and wholesaling of fireworks and for trading and using dangerous chemicals.

Any factories failing to meet safety standards will be suspended from operating for improvement or will face closure.

Production at six fireworks plants of the province has already been halted, said an official from Heilongjiang provincial work safety bureau.

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