Blast at cooking gas plant injures 56 in northern Vietnam

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A massive blast at a cooking gas filling company in the northern province of Bac Ninh injured 56 people, including two who needed urgent hospitalization in nearby Hanoi for severe burns.

Hundreds of workers at the Khai Son Industrial Zone fled in panic after the gas explosion at around 9:15 a.m. at the An Duong Oil and Gas Commerce JSC.

The factory roof and thousands of empty cylinders were blown hundreds of meters away, while a gas tank exploded to bits and another was burned down. Glass windows many kilometers away were shattered.

No one was killed amid the carnage.

A big fire broke out and could be seen by people living far away from the factory. It took more than an hour to put it out.

Two workers were sent to the National Burns Institute in Hanoi since their respiratory system was damaged. They also had burns on their heads, faces, and necks.

Truong Thi Tai, 20, who works for a neighboring factory, got several glass pieces into her head.

But Tai told Hanoi Moi she still remembered seeing people thrown away and struck down, that the blaze was intense, and that there was glass flying all over the place.

"We were working when a manager rushed over and told us to leave immediately since there would be a blast soon.

"We had no idea what was going on and froze for a few seconds. Then a person shouted 'Run!' and we ran out of the factory on instinct."

But it was too late and they were caught in the enormous blast, she added.

Dang Duc Cuong, deputy director of the company, told Hanoi Moi the accident happened because gas had leaked when two workers were transferring it from big tanks to the cylinders.

The gas caught fire and exploded immediately, he said.

Local authorities said the damage could be worth billions of dongs (VND1 billion = US$48,000) though no official estimates are available yet.

Police are investigating, and are not discounting foul play.

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