A fireworks factory exploded in Vietnam, killing about two dozen workers. The accident happened in Hanoi on Saturday and forced about 2,000 people to evacuate the area.
The initial death toll was estimated at 21, but Vietnamese police revised the total to 24 on Sunday. Pho Tho policeman Pham Quang Minh explained to the AFP, “At least 24 people were killed — we have identified 16 bodies.”
Minh added that at least 20 workers were also injured, much lower than the initial report of 100 or more. The explosion happened at a military complex, called Z121, where plumes of black smoke could be seen.
According to an initial report, some explosives at the fireworks factory self-ignited in a storage room, which caused a fire and additional explosions.
Al Jazeera reports that residents in Thanh Ba district, where the complex is located, recalled feeling the ground shake during the explosions. One witness, Nguyen Nhu Quynh, recalled, “After the first explosion, my house was shaking and the door smashed open.”
The factory in question is the only facility in Vietnam that produces fireworks, which are used to Lunar New Year festivals and other public events. It employs 30 workers, mostly women. The explosion’s fatality count could have been much worse, but only a few dozen employees were working at the time, because it was the weekend.
Local hospitals were swamped with the injured for hours after the explosion began. Some victims had horrific burns and the most critical cases were sent to a burn center on the outskirts of Hanoi. Minister of Defense Phung Quang Thanh visited the site on Saturday evening and called for urgent assistance for the families of the victims.
Sadly, Saturday’s fireworks factory explosion wasn’t the first accident for Vietnam involving the volatile products. Fireworks being prepared at My Dinh stadium in Hanoi in 2010 exploded, killing three foreigners and one Vietnamese citizen. Until 1994, handmade firecrackers were traditionally used during the Lunar New Year as a sign of good luck. However, the government banned all production and use of the products for safety reasons, and switched to fireworks.
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