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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 05:11 GMT 06:11 UK
Several dead in India store blaze
At least nine people were suffocated after a firecracker shop caught fire in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, local police have said.

The fire, which firefighters said was caused by an electric short circuit, engulfed the shop, which was located in the basement of a multi-storey building in the Begum Bazar area of Hyderabad, the French news agency AFP reported.

Most of the victims were staying in a motel on the top floor of the building, and were asleep at the time of the incident.

The fire has now been put out, but authorities said they expected the death toll to rise.

The incident comes a day after a similar fire in a fireworks factory killed at least 10 people and injured eight in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.

Shops selling firecrackers tend to increase their business in India ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which falls early next month.

Accidents are common in such shops due to the cramped conditions and lack of basic safety facilities.

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