India firework factory blast kills at least 18

NEW DELHI, At least 18 people have been killed

and up to 16 injured after a massive explosion at a firecracker factory in

northern India, as rescuers battle the flames in the search for survivors.

Nearby cars and buildings were damaged in the blast that occurred at the

plant in the city of Batala.

We have already taken out 18 dead bodies from the firecracker factory,

police inspector Mukhtar Singh, told AFP.

Another 15 or 16 people, mostly labourers working at the unit, have been

rushed to nearby hospitals with injuries.

The factory is in a bustling neighbourhood and authorities fear the death

toll could rise further. It is not known how many people were inside the

factory when the explosion occurred.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tweeted that he was deeply anguished

to learn of the loss of lives.

Explosions are common in illegal firecracker workshops, particularly during

the Hindu autumn festival of Diwali � which usually falls between October to

November and creates large demand for fireworks.

Many of these factories do not adhere to basic safety requirements and

operate without permits.

Batala officials said it was too early to determine what caused the

explosion.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)