Fires and explosions

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 December 2005


(2005), "Fires and explosions", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 14 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Fires and explosions

5 September 2004Coal mine, Guizhou Province, China

A gas explosion yesterday at the Andesheng Coal Mine in Jinsha, a county in Guizhou province, killed ten workers and left an unknown number missing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Rescue efforts were under way, and the cause was being investigated. Following the accident, authorities closed all the mines in the county for inspections, Xinhua said.

8 September 2004Copper mine, Kure, Turkey

A fierce fire at a copper mine in north-western Turkey trapped dozens of workers inside, an official said. Five injured miners managed to escape. Rescue workers were unable to enter the mine in the town of Kure in Kastamonu province, some 185 miles north of the capital, said Gov. Alper Tanrisever. “There are some 30 or 35 workers trapped inside the mine,” Tanrisever said. “We can’t come near it, we’re watching it from a distance.” Tanrisever said smoke was seen raising from the air ventilation chimneys of the mine. Military units in the area provided gas masks for rescuers, but it was not clear when they would attempt to enter the mine. Five miners who managed to escape the flames injured were hospitalized, Tanrisever said. Some injured workers said the fire was very big inside the mine, private CNNTurk television reported. Authorities said a spark during welding inside the tunnel apparently ignited gas squeezed inside. The copper mine is owned by Istanbul-based STFA company, company officials said.

9 September 2004. A fire raged through a copper mine in northern Turkey yesterday, killing 19 workers and injuring 17 others. Rescuers were searching the smoke-clogged shafts to make sure no one was left inside. The miners were trapped 150 m beneath the surface when the blaze broke out yesterday morning in the mine in the town of Kure, 300 km north of Ankara. A mine official said welding had sparked the flames. It took rescuers four hours to douse the blaze. They needed military-issue gas masks to enter the smoke-filled mine in search of survivors, who had fled to the lower levels. Relatives of the trapped miners waited for hours at the entrance of the mine as the tragedy unfolded. A total of 17 miners, some suffering from smoke inhalation, and 19 bodies were brought to the surface by rescuers,

18 September 2004Lagos area, Nigeria

Between 30 and 50 people have been killed in an explosion at a fuel pipeline on the outskirts of the Nigerian commercial capital Lagos, police said. “Between 30 and 50 people were killed while siphoning fuel from a damaged pipeline,” Lagos police spokesman Emmanuel Ighodalo said, giving a new toll from Thursday’s (16 September) explosion at Imore village, a northern suburb of the city. Witnesses had earlier said at least 12 people died in the blast. Mr Ighodalo said no arrests were made. “Nobody was arrested because the victims were also the offenders.” he said. Earlier, witness Yinka Adamolekun said at least 12 people killed when a vandalised portion of the pipeline was ignited by a spark from a generator used to power a boat allegedly used by the victims while stealing fuel.

20 September 2004. Rescue workers recovered five more bodies at the scene of a pipeline explosion at Imore village, on the outskirts of Lagos on Friday (17 September). The charred bodies were retrieved from the nearby lagoon, which had been polluted by the flow of fuel from a ruptured pipeline, which was allegedly tampered with by some unidentified persons. An official of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation told newsmen that the fire was very intense because the pipeline was vandalised at ten different points. He said this had made it difficult for the fire to be put off by the combined team of fire-fighters, police and NNPC officials. The valve regulating the pipeline had already been shut, he said, in order to reduce the pressure on the supply line and to make it easier to extinguish the inferno.

21 October 2004Coal mine, Xinmi, Henan Province, China

The death toll of the Daping coal mine gas blast climbed to 62, as rescuers found two more bodies there last night. The whereabouts of 86 others are still unknown. A total of 298 miners managed to escape after the blast happened, while the rest were trapped underground. The provincial government has quickly organized the rescue operation while a 14-member working team of the State Council, headed by Secretary-General of the State Council Hua Jianmin, arrived at the mine yesterday afternoon. As of 2318 hrs, the death toll had risen to 62, 55 died from suffocation, but 86 others are still missing. Local source said the trapped miners are mostly from Henan Province, and that the survival chance for the missing is quite slim.

22 October 2004. More than 200 workers had been killed in a gas explosion deep underground in China. The disaster happened close to midnight on Wednesday (20 October) in the Daping coal mine near Xinmi city in central Henan province, while hundreds of workers toiled at change of shift time. A total of 56 bodies had been recovered by last night and more than 100 rescuers were deep in the mine searching for 148 people still missing but presumed dead.

27 October 2004. The death toll from China’s worst coal mine accident in four years rose to 129 today, the government said, as rescuers searched for 19 more missing miners. The blast occurred on 20 October at the Daping Mine near the central city of Zhangzhou. Rescuers looking for the missing workers have had to dig through rubble and drain water from a 1,200 metre-long passage. They “are still searching for the other 19 missing miners, whose survival chances are slim,” the official Xinhua News Agency said. Authorities have not said what caused the explosion.

30 October 2004. Experts began their underground investigation yesterday afternoon into the cause of last week’s deadly gas explosion at the Daping Coal Mine in central China’s Henan Province. A total of 24 investigators, dispatched by the State Council to the state-owned coal mine in Xinmi City, entered the mine. So far, 141 bodies of trapped miners have been recovered. Li Jiucheng, an investigator and head of the provincial coal industry safety supervision bureau, said that all hidden dangers underground were under control. The rescue work will continue, Li said, as seven miners are still missing, and the “face fall” at the No 13121 operation platform has not been cleared. Of the 141 bodies, 108 have been identified.

15 November 2004. Chinese authorities say a massive coal mine blast last month that killed 148 people was sparked after mine operators failed to realise that extending the mine’s shaft would greatly increase its gas level, state media reported yesterday. Insufficient ventilation in the mine allowed the gas to build up and mix with fresh air, and the explosion was ignited by sparks from mine machinery, government-run newspapers and the Xinhua News Agency said. It occurred “deep in a complicated stratum” inside the mine, Xinhua said. When mine operators extended the shaft, gas rushed out, it added, citing Zhao Tiechui, deputy head of the State Administration of Production Safety.

27 October 2004Chemical plant, Secunda, South Africa

An inquiry into the cause of an explosion at Sasol’s ethylene plant in Secunda, South Africa, last month, which left ten people dead and more than 100 injured, began today, the labour department said. Spokesperson Page Boikanyo said 40 witnesses, including workers and subcontractors, would be questioned during the inquiry, which was due to end on Friday (29 October). It was being held at the petrochemical company’s Brandspruit mine near Secunda. Solidarity spokesperson Chris Pienaar said the explosion, which occurred during maintenance work on the C2 ethylene pipe on 1 September, had been caused by a gas leak when the pipe was opened, causing a gas cloud which ignited. He said the investigation would focus on finding the source of the flame which ignited the gas as well as why there had been gas in the pipe in the first place, since it was supposed to be switched off. Although the inquiry was scheduled to end on Friday, Pienaar said he expected the probe to continue into November due to the formal and technical nature of the process, with a large number of documents having to be presented. A report would then be handed to the national Public Prosecutor for a decision on whether those responsible should be prosecuted. Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) general secretary Welile Nolingo said representatives from his union, the labour department, Sasol and Solidarity were in attendance.

28 October 2004Coal mine, Belov, Kemerovo Region, Siberia, Russia

At least ten miners have been killed in an explosion in a coal mine in Siberia, a Russian regional spokesman says. About 100 people were trapped by the blast in a mine near Russia’s border with Mongolia, a representative of the Kemerovo region said. It is not clear how many are still underground, but operations to rescue survivors were said to be under way. “Sadly, the news is very unpleasant. Ten people were killed, 30 people have been evacuated and are all injured in one way or another,” said spokesman Sergei Chernov. “Around 100 people were underground at the time, but only 45 were in the region of the accident.” The mine is in the town of Belov, about 3,000 km east of Moscow. The Russian emergencies ministry said the alarm was raised at around 0145 GMT, and the signal for a methane blast was sounded. “We are not ruling out that the explosion of methane that had accumulated in the mine could have been the cause,” said the spokesman, according to the Russian Interfax agency.

28 October 2004. Rescue operations have been completed at the Listvyazhnaya Mine, Kemerovo Region. A special commission started investigating reasons for the accident, Tass learnt at the Russian Ministry for Emergences. The blast took place at 0545 today. A total of 103 miners were in the colliery at that time. The operation of the mine was stopped immediately after the explosion. According to the latest information, 60 miners came to the surface independently. Later, rescuers found and brought to the surface another 30 people, 23 of whom were hospitalised. The rest were checked up by doctors and were released. As a result of the blast, 13 people died, and their bodies were found by rescuers. An accident center, headed by Governor of the Kemerovo Region Aman Tuleyev works at the place of the tragedy. Incidentally Governor Tuleyev stated that the families of 13 miners, killed by the explosion at the Listvyazhnaya Mine, will receive material aid of at least 500,000 roubles each. This money will be appropriated by owners of the mine the Belon joint stock company, the authorities of Belovo city as well as by the regional authorities.

28 October 2004Refinery, Daqing, China

Up to seven workers were killed in a fire at north-eastern China’s Daqing oil refinery, an official said today. The blaze was ignited around 09:44, yesterday by a stray spark caused by a worker performing maintenance on a water tank at the refinery’s sulphur recovery workshop, said Zou Ling, an official at the provincial Work Safety Bureau. Zou said the blaze was extinguished in about an hour, but only two bodies were recovered. Rescuers believe the other five may have been overcome by fumes and fallen into a massive tank of highly toxic sulphurated hydrogen, she said. Workers are draining the tank, but the process is expected to take until tomorrow.”

29 October 2004Factory, Hunan Province, China

An explosion in a Linli County fireworks plant in central China’s Hunan Province left 13 people dead and three injured on Wednesday (27 October). Seven people died at the site and six others after being taken to the hospital. An explosion in the finished products warehouse about noon apparently set off a chain reaction that demolished the entire 3,000 sq.m. plant. Windows were blown out of houses more than a kilometre away. A local resident told the Xiaoxiang Morning News that he was taking lunch to his wife, a plant employee, and had just entered the packaging room when he heard an explosion. Before he could take cover, he said, the entire room collapsed around him. The blast ignited a fire that destroyed more than half a hectare of forest before it could be contained. A source identified by the Hunan Daily as “a person in charge” said that the plant had finished and semi-finished fireworks stored on the premises, as well as about 150 kg of gunpowder. Authorities are investigating and have detained one of the owners, who was also in charge of production.

6 November 2004Coal mine, Shuozhou, China

A gas explosion in a coal mine has killed 16 miners in northern China, the latest in a string of accidents to hit the mining industry, the official Xinhua news agency said today. At the time of the blast 48 miners were working underground, in the early hours of yesterday at the Shiyawan coal pit, near the city of Shuozhou in the northern province of Shanxi. Xinhua reported that 32 miners escaped, and the cause of the explosion is being investigated. The Shiyawan mine is run by the local township and churns out about 90,000 tonnes of the hard, dirty hydrocarbon each year.

12 November 2004Coal mine, Henan Province, China

A coal mine blast killed at least 33 miners in central China, the government said today. Yesterday’s accident at the Xinsheng coal mine in the central province of Henan also injured six.

21 November 2004Mine, Baita, Shahe City, Hebei Province, China

Rescuers are attempting to save 60 miners trapped when five iron ore mines caught fire in north China’s Hebei province. State media reports that the fire was initially reported at 1030, local time, in a privately-run mine in Baita township, Shahe city. It rapidly spread to four nearby iron ore mines, trapping 75 miners. Xinhua news agency reports that rescuers have saved 15 of the miners but 60 remained trapped. The 80-strong rescue team is headed by provincial governor Ji Yunshi. An investigation has been launched into the cause of the blaze.

22 November 2004. Rescue workers have recovered the bodies of 33 Chinese miners killed when fire swept through a group of iron mines in the northern province of Hebei, state media said today. The China Daily newspaper said 45 people had been rescued and 28 were still trapped. Fire broke out at a mine on Saturday morning (20 November) and quickly spread to four nearby pits, trapping dozens of people. The most likely cause was an electronic cable catching fire, Xinhua news agency reported.

22 November 2004. The death toll in the five iron mines that caught fire Saturday morning (20 November) in Shahe City in north China’s Hebei Province has risen to 57, said an official with the leading group in charge of the rescue operation. The bodies of 49 miners killed in the fire, most of whom succumbed to suffocation, were lifted to the ground by 07:30, today, and the location of eight other dead miners has been identified and will be transported to the surface soon. Miners killed in the disaster were either locals or from the underdeveloped Guizhou Province in south-west China and Shaanxi Province in northwest China. Preliminary investigation shows that the fire broke out due to electronic cable self-ignition in one iron mine. The fire spread quickly to four other iron mines which were all connected. Heavy smog soon trapped 106 miners. Up to now, 46 miners have been rescued alive. But three other miners remained missing. Search for the missing miners is sill going on.

23 November 2004. The death toll in Saturday’s (20 November) fire in five iron mines in Shahe City of Hebei Province has risen to 61 and rescuers are still searching for the missing, an official said today. As of this morning, 61 miners were confirmed dead, 51 were alive and four were still missing, said Hu Chunxing, chief of the city information office. Preliminary investigation shows that the fire was caused by the self-ignition of electric cables in one mine, and spread quickly to the four other mines which were all connected. Heavy smog soon trapped 116 miners. Hu said the poor management of the mines made it difficult to get the accurate number of miners who were working when the fire broke out. The number was estimated at no less than 116. The identification of more than 50 victims have so far been recognized and their families are on their way to the mines, said Hu. The miners killed in the disaster, most of whom succumbed to suffocation, were either locals or from underdeveloped Guizhou Province in south-west China and Shaanxi Province in north-west China. City government officials are busy with the aftermath and insurance companies have begun the work of compensation to some of the miners who had taken insurance policies.

28 November 2004Coal mine, Shaanxi Province, China

A gas explosion tore through a coal mine in northern China today, trapping at least 187 miners in what could be the worst disaster to hit the world’s biggest and most dangerous mining industry in years. Only 80 miners managed to escape from the Chenjiashan Coalmine in Shaanxi province after this morning’s explosion, the official Xinhua news agency said. Around 270 had been in the mine at the time and 187 were trapped, it said. The People’s Daily said 273 miners were in the mine at the time of the blast and 85 made it out, leaving 188 still trapped. “At about 07:30 hrs, workers at the mouth of the Chenjiashan coal mine discovered thick smoke pouring out of ventilation shafts, and that communication with the inside of the mine had been cut off,” People’s Daily said on its web site. An official contacted at the mine said he had no information about the cause of the blast or the number of casualties. The mine is near the city of Tongchuan, about 740 km south-west of Beijing.

29 November 2004. A wall of thick smoke is blocking rescuers from reaching 141 Chinese miners trapped after a gas explosion in a coal mine that killed at least 25. A total of 127 miners escaped from the state-owned Chenjiashan Coal mine in Shaanxi province after yesterday’s explosion, which could be the worst disaster to hit the world’s most dangerous mining industry in four years. Fire had broken out at the mine last Monday (22 November) and some miners had refused to go back to work, but officials, eager to boost production, had threatened to fine or suspend absentees, the China Youth Daily and Beijing Morning Post said. It was impossible for those missing to have survived because there was no air in the underground area where they were trapped, the China Daily quoted an unidentified mine official as saying. State television showed ambulances speeding down dusty roads, past rows of workers and residents, to the mine, which it said was known for a high concentration of gas. “Rescue work is still under way,” a rescue official said by telephone today. Rescuers advanced several hundred metres (yards) into the mine but were blocked by heavy smoke, state media said. The top priorities were to repair ventilation equipment damaged in the explosion and to guarantee the safety of rescuers, Xinhua quoted Zhao Tiechui, deputy head of the State Production Safety Bureau, as saying. Of the miners who escaped, 45 were injured and in hospital, Xinhua said. Some had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. About 2,000 rescue workers have rushed to the mine, some 740 km south-west of Beijing, along with the Communist Party’s provincial boss and the acting provincial governor. The blast occurred two days after the Shaanxi government ordered tougher mine inspections and closure of any mines with insufficient or substandard ventilation. The provincial government has ordered all mines in Shaanxi with high gas concentrations to halt operations until safety examinations have been carried out, Xinhua said.

29 November 2004. Rescuers battled thick smoke today to free 141 miners trapped after a gas explosion in a coal mine in northern China that killed at least 25, state media reported. A total of 127 miners escaped from the state-owned Chenjiashan Coal mine in Shaanxi province after yesterday’s explosion, which could be the worst disaster to hit the world’s most dangerous mining industry in four years. Rescuers advanced several hundred metres into the mine but were blocked by heavy smoke, state media said. The top priorities were to repair ventilation equipment damaged in the explosion and to guarantee the safety of rescuers, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhao Tiechui, deputy head of the State Production Safety Bureau, as saying. Of the miners who escaped, 45 were injured and hospitalised, Xinhua said. Some had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Some 2000 rescue workers have rushed to the mine, around 740km south-west of Beijing, along with the Communist Party’s provincial boss and the acting provincial governor.

30 November 2004. The death toll in a coal mine explosion in central China rose to 63 with 103 workers still missing, the government said today, as toxic fumes unleashed from the blast slowed rescuers from entering the pit. Rescue workers have recovered 63 bodies from the Chenjiashan Coal Mine in Shaanxi, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Huo Shichang, an official from the provincial coal industry administration. Hopes were fading for some 103 miners still missing. Emergency workers descended into the mine yesterday to repair ventilation systems needed to pump the fumes out, Xinhua said. But the agency did not say whether rescuers had begun making their way in to search for the miners, and officials reached by phone said they did not have any more details. “After safe conditions are ensured, then rescue efforts can be sped up,” Xinhua said late yesterday. Survival chances for the missing miners were “extremely slight” because of high levels of carbon monoxide, said an official of the mine safety bureau in Shaanxi province, where the mine is located, who gave his name as Chen. “We have to look after the safety of the rescuers,” Chen said. “If they take oxygen tanks down there, there could be another explosion caused by a leak. But if they don’t take oxygen down they’ll die in a second.” Some 127 miners managed to escape, Xinhua said, citing safety officials. Among them, 45 were hospitalised, 11 with serious injuries.

1 December 2004. The death toll from a coal mine blast in northern China has risen to 166, Xinhua news agency said today, confirming one of the worst disasters to hit the world’s most dangerous mining industry. “The spokesman for the mine just declared all the 166 miners were killed,” Xinhua said today, confirming what authorities had been expecting in the days since Sunday’s (28 November) accident. More than 120 workers escaped the state-owned Chenjiashan coal mine in Shaanxi province after the explosion, or what may have been back-to-back explosions. Many were seriously injured. High temperatures and a build up of toxic gas had slowed the search for bodies at the mine where until today 65 workers were known to have been killed, with 101 trapped and presumed dead. Xinhua gave grim details of the mine’s safety record, saying fires were a frequent event. “The coal mine has a high density of gas, due to intergrowth of coal, oil and gas. Its coal bed remains responsive to fires. The mine used to suffer a fire every three to six months and the shortest break between two fires was 24 days,” it said

5 December 2004Coal mine, Karaganda area, Kazakhstan

A powerful blast ripped through a coal mine in Kazakhstan today, killing 23 people, a spokesman for the Central Asian state’s Emergencies ministry said. “Twenty-three dead have been recovered. Three injured miners have been taken to hospitals,” the spokesman said by telephone from the Kazakh capital Astana. He said there were 87 people working underground when the blast struck the Shakhtinskaya mine near the northern city of Karaganda at 03:15 hrs. “There are no more people left in the mine at the moment. We have evacuated all the survivors,” he said. The coal mine belongs to Kazakhstan’s steel giant Ispat-Karmet, which is part of LNM Holdings NV, owned by Indian-born, London-based magnate Lakshmi Mittal. There was no immediate information on the cause of the blast, the spokesman said, adding that an investigation was under way.

9 December 2004Coal mine, Nanlou, Yangquan, Shaanxi Province, China

A gas explosion at a Chinese coal mine has trapped 37 miners underground, official media reports. The Xinhua news agency reports that about 34 other miners escaped when the blast ripped through the mine in the northern province of Shaanxi. Today’s blast happened at Nanlou township in Yuxian county near the city of Yangquan. The mine produces 150,000 tons of coal a year and was licensed to operate. Rescue efforts are under way.

10 December 2004. A gas explosion at a coal mine in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi has killed 28 miners and five rescuers, the government said today. A total of 71 miners were working underground when the accident happened yesterday at the Daxian Sankeng mine, near Yangquan, the State Administration of Work Safety said on its web site. It did not say how the rescuers died.

14 December 2004Coal mine, Xiangtan County, Huan Province, China

The death toll in a mine fire in central China rose to 18 late today after the bodies of the last missing miners were found by rescuers, the government said. The fire broke out yesterday evening in the Xinli Coal Mine in Xiangtan County in Hunan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It quoted a survivor who said a faulty air compressor ignited the blaze. Rescuers found 13 bodies some 1,500 feet below ground, Xinhua said, citing rescue officials. The agency reported earlier that five bodies had been found. Some 21 miners were at work when the fire broke out, according to earlier reports. Three escaped alive.

20 December 2004Coal mine, Xingwen County, Sichuan, China

An explosion in a Chinese coal mine killed 14 people and injured three, the government said today.The accident occurred in Xingwen County in the south-western province of Sichuan at 01:40 hrs, yesterday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The cause of the explosion wasn’t reported.

27 December 2004Premises, Mulhouse, France

A gas explosion tore through a five storey apartment building, killing ten people and injuring another 12 in eastern France. Rescue workers, who originally found two bodies, discovered eight more bodies overnight after the explosion yesterday afternoon in the eastern city of Mulhouse. Most of the deaths were caused by the collapse of three floors, officials said. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 60.

31 December 2004Nightclub, Buenos Aires, Argentina

At least 175 people have died in a fire that tore through a crowded nightclub in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. More than 619 others were injured when the fire broke out late yesterday, city officials said. Up to 4,000 people were inside the club for a New Year performance by rock group Los Callejeros, reports say. Officials are investigating the possibility that emergency exits at the nightclub were locked. Argentine Interior Minister Anibal Fernandez said the blaze may have claimed more victims because the exits had been tied shut with wire. Officials do not yet know what caused the blaze but witnesses say a celebratory flare was set off and foam in the ceiling caught fire. “Someone from the crowd tossed a flare and there were immediately flames,” said Fabian Zamudeo, who had been inside the club. Many of the dead are thought to have died from smoke inhalation. “The fire spread in a minute and we were a mountain of people trying to escape,” said survivor Ariel Monges, who lost a friend and a cousin in the fire.

10 January 2005. Officials in Argentina today raised the death toll from a tragic nightclub fire on New Year’s Eve to 189 and said some 177 people remained in hospital. The ceiling of the Cromagnon nightclub in Buenos Aires caught fire after someone in the crowd fired a flare into the ceiling. Many of the 2000 people attending a concert by the rock group Los Callejeros were unable to escape as safety exits were chained shut.

1 January 2005Coal Mine, Hunan Province, China

Ten people have been reported dead in a gas explosion in a central Hunan provincial coal mine, the government said today. The Hunan mine explosion occurred early yesterday in the Zhenzhuling mine in Jiahe county. No other details of the blast were immediately available.

8 January 2005Factory, Narayangaj, Bangladesh

At least 22 workers were killed and 50 others injured in a devastating fire that broke out in a 100 percent export-oriented Bangladeshi private sector garment manufacturing unit – Shan Knitting and Processing Mills Ltd at Chowdhuribari Jelepara bridge area under Siddhirganj thana in Narayangaj in central Bangladesh last Thursday night (6 January). It was reported that the fire originated from the calendering section at the first floor of the four-storeyed building at about 21:15 and soon engulfed the whole building trapping people working inside. Fire brigade units from Hajiganj, Mondolpara, Postagola and Demra rushed to the spot and extinguished the fire at 06:00 after about nine hours. The fire fighters recovered 22 bodies from inside the garments factory. The injured persons were sent to different hospitals and clinics at Dhaka and Narayanganj. An official of the garments factory said that there are in all 700 workers in the garments factory and that there was about 400 workers performing their duties in the finishing and dying section on the night shift during the incident. He said it is tough to assess the extent of damage caused by the fire instantly

12 January 2005Fireworks Factory, Xiangfen County, Shanxi Province, China

A total of 25 people were killed and nine injured in a fireworks factory explosion in Xiangfen County, North China’s Shanxi Province, on Tuesday afternoon. Five were critically wounded and four are in a relatively stable condition, according to local hospitals. “The clean-up work is almost done, and there have been no new casualties,” said Niu Jianhua, an official with the Shanxi Provincial Administration for Work Safety. He led the rescue work. Niu said all victims were factory workers, mostly female workers from the county and neighbouring counties. All the injured were taken to Xiangfen County People’s Hospital before five were transferred to Lingang People’s Hospital in Linfen City for better burns treatment. The county of Xiangfen is under the jurisdiction of Linfen. “One male and four female workers are in a critical condition,” said Doctor Jia, at Lingang People’s Hospital. The fireworks factory, in Jing’an village, employs 210 staff and was operated inside a cave. Dozens of female workers were busy making fireworks in cave-workshops in time for the peak season Spring Festival which begins on 9 February, when a huge blast was heard, said Li Jie, an official with the Linfen Administration for Work Safety. A chain of blasts was sparked from one workshop to another, setting light to finished fireworks and inflammable raw materials kept in store in other caves, he said. The main entrance of the factory was totally destroyed. The blast is being blamed on work safety violations, Li said, although the factory does have a complete set of legitimate documents all required by different local authorities to permit production. It also holds certificates that say its storage and transport methods are safe, he said.