Dozens killed in Pakistan blast

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Explosives used for road building blew up in a northern Pakistani village, killing 45 people and injuring 150 others.

The explosives were stored in the home of a local contractor, Waris Khan, who died in the early morning blast in Ghair, said Hussain Khan, a police official. The explosion, 180 miles east of Gilgit, was apparently accidental, caused by an electrical short circuit, he said.

Villager Ghulam Sakhi said that the home, made of wood, caught fire about midnight, and more than 200 neighbors, including women and children, rushed to help extinguish the blaze.

"But the flames reached a big room where explosives were stored, triggering blasts," Sakhi said.

Many of the 45 killed and 150 wounded were women and children, and rescue crews were digging through debris searching for more bodies, Khan said.

In the capital, Islamabad, the Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, said that the stored explosives were being used to clear land for constructing roads. The government is expanding the roads in the scenic mountainous area — home to K-2, the world's second-tallest peak — making it more accessible to tourists and spurring economic growth.

Landslides frequently block roads in the area, sometimes forcing crews to use explosives to clear them.

Many Pakistani contractors and fireworks shops do not have proper storage facilities for explosives, so there's a constant threat of serious accidents.

Last month, a late-night blast at a fireworks plant killed a woman and her two children in the eastern city of Lahore. Police suspected that a record-breaking heat wave sparked the explosion.

* In the western Indian state of Gujerat, six people were reportedly killed after a gas cylinder exploded, causing several buildings to collapse. Many others were injured.

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