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Blast at Istanbul fireworks factory kills 20

A powerful explosion ripped through an unlicensed fireworks factory in Istanbul on Thursday, killing at least 20 people, injuring more than 100 and causing massive destruction.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2008 03:28 IST

A powerful explosion ripped through an unlicensed fireworks factory in Istanbul on Thursday, killing at least 20 people, injuring more than 100 and causing massive destruction.

After pulling a 20th body from the rubble of the five-storey building that collapsed under the force of the blast, the leader of the rescue team, Akin Buzkaya, said there were no signs that any more survivors would be found.

The Istanbul Health Directorate said at least eight of the injured were in a serious condition.

The disaster in the industrial zone of Davutpasa, on the city's European shore, appeared to result from a chain reaction that started with a small explosion and a fire in a clandestine fireworks plant on the fourth floor of the building, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler told reporters.

The explosion caused the implosion of the building which housed several small industries, including a denim bleacher and paint and yarn manufacturers.

The windows of neighbouring buildings were shattered, large chunks of concrete smashed cars parked below and rubble and dust littered the street.

Guler said eight of the dead were onlookers watching the first fire from a nearby parking lot when the second, bigger explosion followed.

"The walls of the building began to swell from the pressure inside, then there was a big bang and the building collapsed," Ahmet Unal, a turner at a nearby workshop, told Anatolia news agency.

"Several people were blown out with the impact of the blast and smashed into the walls of neighbouring buildings," he said.

"The entire neighbourhood shook," a witness who was not identified told the NTV news channel as he wiped blood from his face.

Guler ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack.

Local business owners blamed the accident on negligence by the authorities, saying they had failed to crack down on clandestine businesses and enforce work safety rules.

"Everything except bombs is being freely manufactured here," a shoe-maker said.

Murat Aydin, mayor of the Zeytinburnu district where Davutpasa is located, said the authorities were unaware that a fireworks shop was among the building's tenants, Anatolia reported.

The denim bleachers had continued to operate despite being shut down by the authorities earlier for failing to meet safety norms, he said.

Thursday's blast was the third deadly fireworks incident in as many years in Turkey.

Six people were killed in a similar explosion in Istanbul in 2005, and another two in the central city of Karaman the following year.

Respect for safety regulations is often minimal and accidents are frequent at many smaller work places in Turkey.