8 dead or missing in explosion at Chinese fireworks workshop

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BEIJING (AP) — An explosion at a fireworks workshop in a rural area of northern China has killed or left missing eight people and injured 16, state media reported Sunday.

The explosion Saturday afternoon destroyed the workshop and damaged about a dozen homes in Yanzihe village in Hebei province, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Two people were killed and six were missing. One person suffered severe eye injuries and 15 others bruises.

Xinhua said that the villager who owns the workshop was allegedly involved in the illegal storage and production of fireworks, citing police in Tangshan city's Fengrun district, which oversees the village. A press officer at Fengrun district government, who did not identify himself, confirmed the numbers of dead, missing and injured.

China is five weeks away from Lunar New Year celebrations, the key time for setting off fireworks in the country. There are often reports of fireworks-related incidents at factories in the weeks leading to the holiday, as China generally has a poor record in workplace safety.

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