Pyrotechnics expert for movies among 10 killed in HCMC explosion

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An explosion in Ho Chi Minh City early Sunday destroyed three houses. The bodies of 10 people have been recovered

At least ten people were killed when three houses collapsed in Ho Chi Minh City early Sunday following an explosion that police believe happened after firecracker powder stored in a house as filmmaking material was lit up.

Around 11 a.m. police had recovered 10 bodies from the rubble of three houses on alley 384 off Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street in District 3.

An officer from the city Fire Fighting Police said the blast happened sometime after midnight in the second-story house of 58-year-old Le Minh Phuong, in charge of props for Lac Viet, a filmmaking and film effects company.

"Fire and Smoke Phuong," dubbed so because he provided explosion effects for movies, was killed in the accident with his wife, their three children, and a home helper, known only as Tuyet. 

The four victims from the other two houses have been identified as 51-year-old Nguyen Thanh Minh and his 25-year-old daughter Nguyen Ngoc Thuy; and 44-year-old mother Nguyen Thi Tan Xuan and her 15 year-old-daughter Ho Kieu Anh.

Phuong had rented the upper floor of the house above a noodle soup restaurant, and police said they have found traces of firecracker powder in the rubble.

They said the powder appeared to be of a homemade variety, but added no final conclusions have been arrived at about the explosion and its cause.

Nguyen Thi Thu Van, 42, a resident of one of the houses that collapsed in the explosion, said that when she heard the first bang, she and her husband managed to get out of the house with their two sons, 9 and 13 years old.

There was a bigger bang five minutes later and all three houses including hers came down.

Van said there were seven people in the house at the time. Her father-in-law was rushed to hospital unconscious while a woman of the family, Xuan, and her daughter Anh were killed.

Eyewitnesses said the explosion had caused tremors in many surrounding buildings and broken the glass windows in several houses.

Nguyen Thi Phuong, whose family shared a wall with one of the collapsed houses, told Tuoi Tre: "It was past midnight, all four people in my family were sleeping and I heard a big explosion that shook the entire house.

"We had no idea what was going on, then we smelled firecrackers, so we quickly ran out."

She said there was a high blaze after the explosion and the sounds of people crying out for help.

Twelve fire engines and hundreds of officers and soldiers were rushed to the scene. They managed to save Pham Quang Minh, 81, Luong Thi Ly, 70 and Luong Huu Hanh, 71, from the rubble.

Hanh and Minh were sent to the District 3 Hospital with slight injuries on their heads, shoulders and legs.

Minh told Thanh Nien he was asleep when the accident happened.

He did not know what was it but his eyes and legs were too weak for him to run, so he stood close to a wall and was rescued around one hour later.

Ly, who sustained more serious injuries, is being treated at the 115 Hospital.

No information was available at the time of going to press on the fate of other occupants in the five collapsed houses. Locals said there were other tenants living in them.

All roads to the alley have been blocked for further search operations and investigations into the explosion.

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