UK & World News
Vietnam Firework Factory Explosion Kills 21
An explosion at a fireworks factory in northern Vietnam has killed at least 21 people and left dozens more injured.
An army official said the blast was at a military-run facility in Phu Tho province which employs around 300 workers, mostly women.
"Twenty-one people are dead and 98 others are injured - most of them have sustained burns," a military rescue official told AFP by phone, requesting anonymity.
The most critical burns cases were being moved to a specialist burns centre on the outskirts of Hanoi, 120km away.
"I couldn't recognise my daughter, she was burned from her face to the soles of her feet," one woman told state media. "She was pregnant, she couldn't escape the explosion quick enough."
Images posted on Vietnamese blogs showed charred frames of motorcycles, and nearby houses with roofs ripped off and windows blown in by the force of the explosions.
The online newspaper VNExpress quoted Major General Le Quang Dai as saying that fewer people than usual were working at the time of the explosion because it was a Saturday.
Authorities had tried to isolate the blast in Thanh Ba district to prevent it from reaching two explosives warehouses nearby, he added.
A police officer said the blast could be heard 10km away and around 2,000 residents living near the factory were evacuated.
Loudspeakers urged people within 15km of the facility to leave the area.
"The first blast was at 7.55am - and then there were continuous explosions for some hours," Phi Xuan Trung, chairman of the local Khai Xuan commune, told VNExpress.
"There was a strong smell of gunpowder, the ground was shaking many kilometres away," he added.
An investigation has been launched into the cause of the explosion.
The factory is the only facility in Vietnam that produces fireworks to be used for Lunar New Year festivals and other major public events.
In 2010, fireworks being prepared at Hanoi's My Dinh stadium for use in the city's 1,000th anniversary celebrations exploded, killing three foreigners and one Vietnamese national.