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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 20:24 GMT
Pakistan explosives blast 'kills 17'
At least 17 people have been killed in an explosives blast in the central Pakistan city of Sialkot, police say.

Reports say a container loaded with explosives for making firecrackers blew up at a dry docks.

The explosion was so devastating that it virtually tore apart bodies

Syed Ahmed Gondal
Sialkot police
School children are believed to be among those killed.

Firefighters battled to bring the flames under control.

Officials have ruled out sabotage as a possible cause of the blast.

Unofficial estimates put the number of those killed as high as 25.

At least 35 people have been injured, some critically, reports say.

Ambulance crews rushed to the scene, and an emergency has been declared at Sialkot's main hospital.

Explosive toys

A senior official at the dry port and warehousing depot near Sialkot said the blast happened as customs officials opened and inspected one of two containers full of goods imported from Dubai.

He said the consignment was declared as toys.

There is no chance it was sabotage

Syed Ahmed Gondal, Deputy Police Chief

Other officials said it might well have been packed with explosives for toy gun caps or firecrackers.

The general manager of the port, Salim Sheikh said a series of explosions caused a much bigger blast in the other container full of chemicals for making perfume.

Burning debris from the blast set fire to a nearby school roof.

Most of the victims are thought to have worked at the dry port where the explosives were being stored.

The dead included two young students from the school, deputy police chief Syed Ahmed Gondal said.

"There is no chance it was sabotage. More probably it was caused by a cigarette or a match stick thrown accidentally," Mr Gondal told Reuters news agency.

He said the force of the blast had literally torn bodies apart.

The authorities are investigating what caused the explosion.

See also:

01 Jan 03 | Americas
23 Oct 02 | South Asia
29 Jan 03 | Country profiles
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