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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Many die in India factory fire

A fire at a factory in northern India is believed to have left at least 12 people dead and injured more than 70 others.

The blaze, at a hosiery factory in the town of Ludhiana in Punjab state, is reported to have spread rapidly after chemicals at the plant caught fire.

Most of the victims are thought to be migrant labourers, who were working on the second floor of the building.

There are conflicting reports as to the cause of the fire: one eyewitness reportedly saw a lit cigarette thrown at chemical drums, while another said a gas cylinder had exploded in a downstairs residence.

'Burst cylinder'

Deputy Commissioner Rahul Bhandar said the injured, 15 of them in serious condition, were admitted to various hospitals after the incident at 0915 local time.

Six firefighters and three police officers were among the injured, he said.

It took nearly four hours for firefighters to put out the fire, which gutted most of the building, eyewitness Kuldip Kumar told Associated Press news agency.

He said the fire had started in a family home.

"The cylinder burst on the ground floor occupied by a family, but the fire raged through the building in minutes because of the chemicals in the garment factory," he told AP.

The factory is in a crowded residential area of Ludhiana, which is about 400 kilometres (270 miles) northwest of the capital, New Delhi.


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