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January 3, 2010

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Fireworks blast death toll rises to 9

THE death toll in Friday's fireworks explosion in northwest China's Shaanxi Province has climbed to nine, with one more body retrieved from the debris, local authorities said yesterday.

Eight people were injured in the blast, which happened at 3:50pm at Xinping Firecrackers Co Ltd. in Pucheng County, a traditional festive explosives production base, the provincial work safety bureau said.

Four of the injured were serious and taken to a leading hospital in Weinan City. Of the other four, three were being treated at the county hospital and one was sent home yesterday.

The bureau said most of the victims were local peasants employed by the firm.

More than 100 people were working when the blast went off, but the majority escaped without injury.

The explosion tore down all seven of the company's workshops, only 500 meters from the nearest farmhouse of Yilong Village.

Company boss Qu Pingxin, a native of Yilong Village, surrendered to police yesterday, a day after he fled, said Zhi Jianfeng, deputy head and public security chief of Pucheng County. Zhi said police were still investigating the cause of the accident.

A joint investigation team, consisting of officials from the provincial work safety, public security and health authorities, was sent to the county on Friday afternoon.

Pucheng County, with 760,000 people, is rich in sulfur and saltpeter that are ideal raw materials for fireworks production.

The industry employs more than 40,000 people and reports an annual output of 400 million yuan (US$58.6 million).


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