Sunday, February 28, 2010

20 dead, 49 injured in S China firework blast

GUANGZHOU: The death toll of a fireworks explosion has risen to 20 as an injured person died in hospital in south China's Guangdong Province, local authorities said Saturday.

The explosion occurred at Shiqiaotou Village, Junbu Township of Puning City at about 8:00 pm Friday, according to the provincial public security department and Puning city government.

Bodies of 13 people were discovered at the scene Friday night and seven others died in hospital later. Eight people are still in critical conditions.

Related readings:
19 dead in S. China firework-triggered blast
Death toll in N.China firework blast rises to 4

Villager Yang Junshu and his family were setting off firecrackers in front of his house. It is believed that the flame ignited other fireworks on the ground and caused the huge explosion, a witness surnamed Yang, whose house is about 200 meters away from the scene, told Xinhua.

Police have detained Yang Junshu and his nephew Yang Keqin. Their relatives have handed in 8 million yuan ($1.17 million) for compensation.

The municipal government has identified 10 of the dead, seven men and three women, including the detained suspect Yang Junshu's mother Chen Yaxia, brother Yang Junmao, daughter-in-law Yang Beibei.

The others include two sons and a daughter of a neighbor of Yang Junshu and four villagers.

Police and work safety officials have started a safety check on the sale, storage, transportation and the use of fireworks in Puning. Officials said they would close all unlicensed retailers.

Fireworks and firecrackers are a necessity for celebrating the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in China. The festival ends Sunday.

China urges checks after deadly fireworks blast

BEIJING (AP) — China has issued an urgent order to local authorities to strengthen safety measures after an explosion triggered by Lunar New Year fireworks killed 21 people and injured 48 in a southern village.
The State Council's Work Safety Commission said in a notice that authorities around the country should learn from the mistakes that caused the blast late Friday in the southern province of Guangdong, the deadliest accident of the 15-day Spring Festival.

The celebrations are set to end Sunday with a lantern festival. Fireworks are often a key part.

Last year, lantern festival fireworks sparked an inferno that destroyed a nearly completed hotel next to state broadcaster CCTV's landmark new office building in downtown Beijing, leaving one firefighter dead. Earlier this month, fireworks started a blaze that destroyed a 1,600-year-old city gate in northern China, causing about $150,000 in financial losses.

The death toll from Friday's explosion in a residential area rose to 21 by Sunday morning, Guangdong emergency authorities said in a statement. State media said authorities have so far identified 10 of the dead.

Thirteen bodies were found at the site while eight others died in hospitals from injuries. Among the remaining 48 people who were injured, six were in critical condition, the government said.

The provincial authority said an initial investigation found that a pile of fireworks were set off in an open space 30 yards (meters) from a residential building and that two people allegedly responsible for the blast have been detained by police.

State broadcaster CCTV said some of the fireworks that triggered the explosion were highly dangerous and only meant to be handled by professionals.

Television footage showed the explosion had ripped through a six-story apartment building, blowing out windows and a ground floor wall, covering one side of the structure in soot and completely melting the exterior of a car parked in front of it.