Page last updated at 06:33 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 07:33 UK

India fireworks blast 'kills 16'

Madurai map

At least 16 people have been killed in a blast in a firecracker factory in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The factory, located in Vadakkampatti village in Madurai district, was completely gutted by the blast and the subsequent fire, officials said.

The roof of the building collapsed, trapping workers. Fire fighters have pulled out charred bodies and dozens of injured have been taken to hospital.

Accidental explosions are routine in fireworks factories in India.

"We have put out the fire but, as a result of the blast, the roof top shed has collapsed resulting in the death of people who were trapped beneath it," news agency Reuters quoted senior Madurai police officer M Manohar as saying.

"We are recovering bodies from the debris," he said.

Police say they are investigating what caused the blast and the fire.

There have been several accidental explosions in firecracker manufacturing units in India in the past.

In October last year, at least 26 people died after a huge explosion at an illegal fireworks factory in the western state of Rajasthan.

At least 35 people were killed in a huge explosion at a fireworks store in northern Bihar state in 2005.

In the same year, at least seven people from the same family were killed in a firecracker blast in the western state of Gujarat.

And in 2002, at least 23 people were killed in separate incidents in southern India caused by fireworks explosions.

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