One dead, 24 hurt in Philippine fireworks blaze


A blaze that ripped through a group of fireworks shops in the Philippines Wednesday killed a woman with another person missing and 24 others hurt, officials said.

The fire set off a series of explosions at a strip of shops that overturned a truck and badly damaged three other vehicles on a major road in Bocaue, a town about 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Manila.

"I was hurled to the back of the shop by the force of the explosion," Mel Berbosa de Castro, 50, her lip still bleeding and her back hurting from the blast, told AFP from her shop across the street.

"I saw a bloodied old man running away looking for his grandchild. Others were just running for their lives."

Driver Ricky Salvador, 47, said he  helped take a victim with a bloodied face to hospital.

"It was like a war zone. I saw shards of glass, nails flying up in the air. Firecrackers were flying all over," he told AFP.

The town's fire marshal, Senior Inspector Renan Batchine, put the toll at one dead, one missing and 24 injured. The sole confirmed fatality was an unidentified female, he said.

Huge and sometimes deadly fires at sprawling slums, markets and factories are common in the Philippines, where safety regulations are poorly enforced.

In May last year 72 people were killed after a huge blaze tore through a footwear factory in the northern suburbs of Manila.

In one of the country's deadliest-ever fires, 162 people were killed and 94 were injured at a Manila disco in 1996.