HANOI - At least 21 people have died and scores more have been injured in an explosion at a fireworks factory in a military complex in northern Vietnam, an army official said on Saturday.
Plumes of black smoke billowed from the Z121 military facility, around 120 kilometres north of Hanoi, as fireworks exploded uncontrollably for several hours, witnesses said.
"Twenty-one people are dead and 98 others are injured -- most of them have sustained burns," a military rescue official told AFP by telephone.
The explosion prompted the evacuation of about 2,000 people living near the area.
Smoke rises following an explosion at a fireworks factory in the northern province of Phu Tho on Saturday. (AFP Photo)
"The fire has now been brought under control," a police official in Phu Tho province told AFP, adding that an investigation into the cause of the accident had been opened.
"The first blast was at 7:55am, and then there were continuous explosions for some hours," Phi Xuan Trung, chairman of the local Khai Xuan commune, told the VNExpress news site.
"There was a strong smell of gunpowder, the ground was shaking many kilometres away."
Residents in Thanh Ba district, where the complex is located, also said they felt the ground shake during the powerful repeated explosions.
"After the first explosion, my house was shaking and the door smashed open," eyewitness Nguyen Nhu Quynh said.
Loudspeakers urged people within 15 kilometres of the military facility to leave the area.
One local resident told AFP that people had fled to the Viet Tri township, about 40 kilometres away.
"We have received warnings from authorities that there could be further explosions which could be very destructive," he said.
Latest stories in this category:
- China market inferno kills 16
- Thai pro-government 'Red Shirts' vow election support
- India reinstates ban on gay sex
- India vows no pre-election handouts
- Japanese Olympic judo champion loses rape appeal
- Myanmar opens SEA Games with 'coming-out party'
- AT&T drops anchor in Asean
- Bangladesh court to decide on execution of top Islamist