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Wednesday, November 18, 1998 Published at 06:12 GMT


Fireworks factory goes up in smoke

The smouldering wreckage testifies to the power of the blast

An investigation is under way to find out what triggered an explosion and fire in a fireworks factory which led to several homes being evacuated.

Windows were blown out in houses near the factory in Uffculme, Devon, but amazingly none of the 13 workers at the plant was seriously hurt.

One person received an eye injury and several people suffered shock in Tuesday's blast and 35 firemen tackled the blaze caused by the explosion.

The fire, which happened less than two weeks after Guy Fawkes Night, sparked a series of explosions inside the building which were followed by a major explosion.

Power cut

Nearby homes and industrial units were evacuated and power was cut off for a time.

[ image: Eyewitness Richard Woofe:
Eyewitness Richard Woofe: "There was a huge blast"
Eyewitness Richard Woofe said: "There were several bangs over a period of 10-15 minutes and then a huge blast which showered metal over quite a large radius.

"It was raining down in our yard, pieces of container and roof and we all ran for cover."

Rachel Tucker, who runs the post office in the village, which is not far from the Somerset border, said there was "an enormous explosion" which cut off many people's electricity.

'Unbelievable sight'

She said: "I've never seen anything like it in my life. It was unbelievable.

[ image: The blast has devastated a large area of Uffculme]
The blast has devastated a large area of Uffculme
"A huge shockwave and an enormous noise made us shake," said Mrs Tucker.

Devon Fire Brigade spokesman Dave Canniford said: "Because of the risk of the explosions, our firefighters had to fight the fire from a safe distance until they had died down."

Divisional officer Graham Reed said the scene was one of "wide devastation" when his men arrived.

The Fire Brigade and the Health and Safety Executive will be conducting separating inquiries into the cause of the blast.

[ image: Firemen mop up inside the gutted factory]
Firemen mop up inside the gutted factory
Chris Hutchinson, managing director of The Firework Company, said: "Clearly a firework went off and that set off a series of small explosions which grew into a larger explosion.

"We do not know what caused that first firework to go off."

But Mr Hutchinson said the company would rebuild and added: "We are in the business of exciting people, and we have the millennium coming up."

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