An explosion at a military-run fireworks factory in northern Vietnam has left 21 workers dead and injured almost 90 others, officials have said.
A search and rescue operation is currently underway in an attempt to find other survivors. About 1,000 residents living near the factory have been evacuated, the online newspaper VnExpress reported, although some reports have put this figure as high as 2,000.
Most of the injured are being treated for burns, an anonymous source told AFP, with the most critical burns being moved to a specialist burns centre on the outskirts of Hanoi.
Fireworks and plumes of smoke could be seen from outside factory, which employs 300 people.
Several sections of the multi-building factory were leveled in the explosion, and some nearby homes were also damaged, Major General Le Quang Dai, the military chief in Phu Tho province said.
He said that about 200 workers were present at the time of the blast, but that it was still unclear how many managed to escape. Staff have been working weekends to produce fireworks for the Lunar New Year festival in January, he said.
A local police officer said the explosion could be heard six miles away, and that it levelled some houses and shattered glass windows in others.
The factory is the only facility in Vietnam that produces fireworks to be used for Lunar New Year festivals and other major public events.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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