CHENNAI  - A blaze at a fireworks factory in southern India that triggered a mass explosion of firecrackers left at least 40 people dead and 60 injured on Wednesday, police said. “Bodies have been burnt beyond recognition and we are still trying to trace the family members of the victims,” senior police officer Najmul Hoda told AFP. The fire started in a small room that was packed with workers and swiftly spread to dozens of other rooms, he said. Many were being used to store explosive chemicals and other raw material needed to manufacture firecrackers.

“Some men jumped out of the windows but there were many who tried saving others in the factory and got trapped in the thick smoke. Forty people have lost their lives and 60 are injured,” Hoda said. Firefighter Shanmugaraju described a “huge explosion” as the factory in Sivakasi went up in flames. The town is the centre of the Indian fireworks industry, some 700 kilometres (430 miles) from state capital Chennai. The firefighter told AFP that local people had walked towards the Om Sivasakthi plant after the fire broke out and were then caught up in the carnage.