BEIJING - Nine people were killed and nine others injured when a truck loaded with fireworks material hit an electricity pole and blew up in central China, state media reported Saturday. The deaths brought the number of fireworks-related deaths nationwide in the past week to at least 19, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The explosion took place late Friday in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, when the truck loaded with 600 boxes of fireworks fuses hit the pole. Sparks from the fallen power cables ignited the fuses and caused the blast.
The force of the explosion shattered windows and cracked walls in houses hundreds of meters (yards) away from the scene, the report said.
Search and rescue teams were using sniffer dogs to look for more possible victims, Xinhua said. Police were investigating the cause of the accident.
On Monday Dec. 11, eight people were killed and six others injured in a blast at a building in the eastern province of Shandong where fireworks were being illegally stored.
Also in Shandong, two people were killed on Monday in an explosion at an illegal fireworks workshop, state media said.
China has a huge fireworks industry notorious for its lax safety standards, and as production increases for the Lunar New Year holiday - during which millions of the festive explosives are used - so does the number of accidents.
This year, New Year festivities are set for Feb. 3.