At least 18 people have been killed and up to 16 injured after a massive explosion at a firecracker factory in northern India, as rescuers battle the flames in the search for survivors.
Nearby cars and buildings were damaged in the blast that occurred at the plant in the city of Batala.
“We have already taken out 18 dead bodies from the firecracker factory,” police inspector Mukhtar Singh, told AFP.
“Another 15 or 16 people, mostly labourers working at the unit, have been rushed to nearby hospitals with injuries.”
The factory is in a bustling neighbourhood and authorities fear the death toll could rise further. It is not known how many people were inside the factory when the explosion occurred.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tweeted that he was “deeply anguished to learn of the loss of lives”.
Explosions are common in illegal firecracker workshops, particularly during the Hindu autumn festival of Diwali — which usually falls between October to November and creates large demand for fireworks.
Many of these factories do not adhere to basic safety requirements and operate without permits.
Batala officials said it was too early to determine what caused the explosion.