25 killed when officials bungle fireworks disposal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am

At least 25 people have been killed while authorities were trying to dispose of eight truckloads of fireworks in the Gobi Desert near the Xinjiang city of Turpan .

At least nine people were injured in Wednesday night's blast, and five were missing.

The tragedy happened about 7pm when Turpan police dumped more than 900 boxes of fireworks in a ditch and the explosives went off 'accidentally', Xinhua reported.

The blast killed 22 people on the spot and three others died in hospital.

A Turpan police bureau spokeswoman said yesterday the explosion was an industrial accident rather than a criminal act.

Xinhua said officers, staff from a professional explosives 'dismantling' company and journalists covering the event were among the casualties.

A reporter from Turpan Radio and one camera operator from the city's TV station died. Searchers were collecting body parts from the debris yesterday for DNA tests in a bid to identify the missing.

The State Administration of Work Safety sent a team to Xinjiang to investigate the incident.

Wang Lequan , party chief of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, ordered hospitals to 'make an all-out effort to rescue injured people'.

The Turpan emergency centre said five of the injured were transferred to an Urumqi hospital for access to better medical treatment yesterday afternoon.

The explosion site was 8km from the Turpan tollgate of national highway 202, and far from the city centre.

Xinhua said the fire caused by the explosion was extinguished an hour later.

Footage aired on CCTV showed a large patch of blackened sand and several sport utility vehicles reduced to charred shells.