An explosion at a fireworks factory in northern India has killed at least 22 people and caused the building to catch fire and collapse, officials have said.

Police officer Mukhtiar Singh said 15 other people were injured in Wednesday’s blast in Batala, a town in Punjab state about 460km (285 miles) north of New Delhi. Singh said rescue work was continuing at the site.

Deepak Bhatia, a state government administrator, said the cause of the explosion was being investigated. The building caught fire after the blast, he said.

Television images showed a brick-lined building that had completely collapsed from the force of the explosion.

Bikram Singh Mathijia, leader of the opposition Akali Dal party, claimed it was an illegal factory that had existed for years without a licence in a residential area in quotes carried on News18 television news channel.

Residents complained that authorities had failed to take any action against the factory. An earlier explosion there in 2017 killed one person, according to the news channel.

Fireworks manufacturing is a big business in India, with firecrackers often used in festivals and weddings.

Many illegal factories produce firecrackers that are cheaper to buy than legally made ones.


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