Saturday, 12 October 2013

At least 21 dead in Vietnam fireworks factory explosion

At least 21 people have died and scores more have been injured in an explosion at a fireworks factory in a military complex in northern Vietnam, an army official said Saturday.

Plumes of black smoke billowed from the Z121 military facility, around 120 kilometers north of Hanoi, as fireworks exploded uncontrollably for several hours, witnesses said.

“Twenty-one people are dead and 98 others are injured, most of them have sustained burns,” a military rescue official told AFP by phone, requesting anonymity and raising an earlier toll of seven dead.

The explosion prompted the evacuation of some 2,000 people living near the area.

An army official said the blast was at a military-run facility in Phu Tho province which employs around 300 workers, mostly women.

The most critical burns cases were being moved to a specialist burns centre on the outskirts of Hanoi, 120km away.

"I couldn't recognise my daughter, she was burned from her face to the soles of her feet," one woman told state media. "She was pregnant, she couldn't escape the explosion quick enough."

Images posted on Vietnamese blogs showed charred frames of motorcycles, and nearby houses with roofs ripped off and windows blown in by the force of the explosions.

“The fire has now been brought under control,” a police official in Phu Tho province told AFP, adding that an investigation into the cause of the accident had been opened.

The online newspaper VNExpress quoted Major General Le Quang Dai as saying that fewer people than usual were working at the time of the explosion because it was a Saturday.

Authorities had tried to isolate the blast in Thanh Ba district to prevent it from reaching two explosives warehouses nearby, he added.

A police officer said the blast could be heard 10km away and around 2,000 residents living near the factory were evacuated.

“The first blast was at 7:55 a.m., and then there were continuous explosions for some hours,” Phi Xuan Trung, chairman of the local Khai Xuan commune, was told the VNExpress news site.

“There was a strong smell of gunpowder, the ground was shaking many kilometres away,” he added.

Residents in Thanh Ba district, where the complex is located, also said they felt the ground shake during the powerful repeated explosions.

“After the first explosion, my house was shaking and the door smashed open,” eye witness Nguyen Nhu Quynh told VNExpress.

Loudspeakers urged people within 15 kilometers of the military facility to leave the area.

One local resident told AFP that locals have fled to the Viet Tri township, about 40 kilometres away.

“We have received warnings from authorities that there could be further explosions which could be very destructive,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In 2010, fireworks being prepared at Hanoi’s My Dinh stadium for use in the city’s 1,000th anniversary celebrations exploded, killing three foreigners and one Vietnamese national.

Saturday 12 October 2013


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