The explosion, which occurred late afternoon on 19 January, lit up the evening sky for about four hours and completely razed the football field-sized factory to the ground, local officials said.
The same morning, an explosion at an oil refinery in the northeastern province of Liaoning left one worker dead, with two missing, and several injured. It was reportedly, the second explosion to occur at the Fushun Petrochemical Co in the past five months. On 7 September, a pump at the plant ignited and exploded, although there were no deaths or injuries.
Officials in Luohe said that firecracker production was a traditional industry in the township, and that, in the village where the explosion occurred, there were five factories employing around 1,000 people.
Despite numerous government attempts to improve workplace safety in China, explosions at firecracker factories are still relatively common, with the risk of accidents increasing in the run-up to the peak demand period during the traditional lunar New Year holiday.
At least 13 village school children employed at an illegal firecracker workshop in Guangxi were killed or injured in an explosion in November 2009. And 19 workers died, with more than 150 injured or missing, when an explosion ripped through a fireworks factory in Heilongjiang last August.
Fireworks factories in China are still relatively labour intensive, heightening the risk of death and injury when accidents occur.
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