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Investigation starts into killer fireworks blaze

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) Investigators were hunting for clues today into how a fireworks warehouse in East Sussex caught fire and exploded, killing two firefighters and injuring 12 other people, including a police sergeant.

Rogue fireworks lit up the sky yesterday after the explosion tore through a number of buildings at the premises at Shortgate, near Lewes, causing widespread damage.

Three people -- two firefighters and a member of the public -- remain in hospital.

''There is a 200 metre exclusion zone around the site. We believe there may be some acetylene cylinders involved in the fire and we need to keep those cylinders cool for 24 hours,'' East Sussex fire chief Des Pritchard told BBC television.

He said emergency services were alerted shortly after lunchtime yesterday.

''About an hour after we received the first calls a massive explosion ripped its way through the site causing significant devastation to a number of buildings but also tragically involving quite a number of our of staff, some members of the public and the police officer,'' Pritchard said.

He said fire investigators, officials from the health and safety executive and police scenes of crime officers would undertake a thorough inquiry.

Witnesses said a series of blasts shook the warehouse as the fire raged and cascades of fireworks exploded in the night sky for hours afterwards. About 10 local residents were evacuated temporarily before being allowed to return to their homes.

REUTERS LL KN1409

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