Explosion at Indian Firecracker Factory Kills 23 People

By The Associated Press

NEW DELHI—A large explosion at a fireworks factory in northern India on Wednesday, Sept. 4, killed at least 23 people and caused the building to catch fire and collapse, officials said.

Police officer Mukhtiar Singh said 15 other people were injured in the blast in Batala, a town in Punjab state about 285 miles north of New Delhi.

“Police, firefighters, and disaster management personnel are at the site looking for any extra bodies in the debris,” inspector general Surinderpal Singh Parmar said Wednesday.

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Rescuers work at the site of an explosion at a fireworks factory in Batala, in the northern Indian state of Punjab on Sept. 4, 2019. (Prabhjot Gill/AP Photo)

Deepak Bhatia, a state government administrator, said the cause of the explosion was being investigated.

Images about the incident show a brick-lined building that had completely collapsed from the force of the explosion.

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People watch rescuers work at the site of an explosion at a fireworks factory in Batala, in the northern Indian state of Punjab on Sept. 4, 2019. (Prabhjot Gill/AP Photo)

Footage on social media shows rescue workers and dozens of people can be seen milling around the large collapsed structure.

Singh said the blast was so strong that it shattered the windows and collapsed some walls of nearby buildings. A few pedestrians in the area at the time of the explosion were also injured, said Parmar.

News18 television news channel quoted opposition Akali Dal party leader Bikram Singh Mathijia as saying that it was an illegal factory that had existed for years without a license in a residential area.

Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said on Twitter that he had ordered a magisterial probe into the blast.

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind offered his condolences on Twitter, writing: “Saddened to learn about the loss of lives due to an explosion at a firecracker factory in Batala, Punjab. Condolences to bereaved families impacted by this tragedy and wishing an early recovery to those injured.”

Residents complained that authorities had failed to take any action against the factory. An earlier explosion there in 2017 killed one person, according to the news channel.

Fireworks manufacturing is big business in India, with firecrackers often used in festivals and weddings.

India marks Diwali, the festival of lights, next month when revelers set off countless fireworks. Many illegal factories produce firecrackers that are cheaper to buy than legally made ones.

On Saturday, at least 12 people were killed and 58 injured after an explosion at a chemical factory in the western state of Maharashtra.

India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah, wrote on Twitter: “Anguished to learn about the loss of lives due to explosion at a chemical factory in Dhule, Maharashtra, adding, “State govt is doing everything possible to assist the people in need. My condolences with the bereaved families. May injured recover soon.”

Reuters and The CNN Wire contributed to this report.