Blaze at India fireworks factory 'kills 34'

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Media captionThe blaze at Sivakasi raged for much of the day

At least 34 people have been killed and 30 others injured in a massive blaze at a fireworks factory in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, police say.

The fire at the Om Shakti factory triggered off several explosions of firecrackers with thick black smoke rising into the sky.

The blaze took place in the town of Sivakasi, the hub of India's firecracker industry.

The town has hundreds of factories and produces 90% of India's fireworks.

It took fire fighters about five hours to bring the fire under control, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says.

Image caption Relatives of the dead were inconsolable

It broke out in one of Sivakasi's largest fireworks factories, spreading through packed warehouses and setting off explosions.

At one point the heat from the blaze was so intense that rescue workers found it difficult to get into the facility.

More than 250 workers were said to be inside at the time of the incident.

Najmul Hoda, superintendent of police for Virudhunagar district where Sivakasi town is located, told the BBC that the number of dead had risen to 34.

He said some of the victims were factory workers, but most were local villagers.

"People had walked to the factory after the fire and many of the bystanders were then caught in the explosions," he said.

Mr Hoda said the factory's licence had been suspended on Tuesday for violating safety rules and "no work should have been happening there today".

Image caption The fire left scenes of devastation at the factory site

He said the police were trying to trace the factory owner. He faces possible charges of culpable homicide, police say.

Earlier, Mr Hoda told the BBC that firefighters and rescuers had been unable to get into the factory because of continuing explosions.

"It's very hot and the conditions are difficult for my men to enter the building.

"The factory has a huge stock of firecrackers and the explosions are still going on," he said.

It was not immediately clear how the fire started.

Accidental explosions are common at Indian fireworks factories, which provide fireworks for weddings, festivals and other ceremonies.

Sivakasi has about 700 registered factories but correspondents say they outsource work to thousands of smaller units which function illegally.

The local government has announced compensation for the victims and an investigation has been ordered.

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