Blast at fireworks workshops kills 18 in China

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BEIJING, Oct 23 (Reuters) Explosions at two separate fireworks workshops in China have killed at least 18 people and injured 15, local media reported today.

An explosion hit an unlicensed fireworks factory early on Sunday morning in remote Xiushan county, in southwestern Chongqing, destroyed three nearby houses and left one person missing, the Beijing News said.

''Casualties may rise as rescuers search through the wreckage,'' Xinhua news agency said in a separate report, citing sources.

Three people among the injured, including two children, were ''severely wounded'', the agency said.

Rescue work was under way, and the cause was being investigated, Xinhua said.

Also on Sunday, an explosion at a fireworks plant in Inner Mongolia in north China killed at least two people and left nearly 10 others missing, Xinhua said today, citing local police.

Two bodies had been found in the Jinhuatai Firecrackers Factory near Chifeng city and rescuers were searching for the missing, it said.

''The rescue work is difficult since the smoke over the factory is still thick and there is a danger of a further blast from other firecrackers stored on the site,'' Xinhua said.

The plant owner was detained and police were trying to confirm the exact number of the missing workers, it added.

Meanwhile, in Wujiang city in the eastern province of Jiangsu, eight people died on Tuesday when a fire engulfed their two-storey residential building just before dawn, Xinhua said.

That was only two days after a blaze killed 37 overtime workers and injured 19 in a shoe factory in the southeastern province of Fujian on Sunday.

REUTERS SZ PM1805

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