At least nine people were killed and 13 more were injured when a truck carrying fireworks exploded in central China, causing a bridge to collapse. Earlier reports by China National Radio put the death toll at 26, but the report was retracted without explanation.
The explosion damaged an 80-meter section of the bridge, sending numerous other vehicles plummeting 30 meters to the ground.
State media say the massive explosion took place in the central province of Henan and reports indicate the blast was strong enough to shatter windows at a nearby truck stop.
A truck driver interviewed on CCTV said he was only 20 meters from the explosion and that his truck’s windshield was smashed by the blast.
“I heard a huge bang and immediately braked. I saw small fireballs falling down one by one,” the unidentified truck driver told the Associated Press. “I then heard the sounds of clanking and exploding for five to six minutes. My face was covered in dust.”
The expressway links Lianyungang City in Jiangsu Province and Horgos, a border port in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China’s far west, state media reported.
In the wake of the disaster, China’s state media reported that the Ministry of Public Security has ordered tougher controls against what it called illegal fireworks production.
The incident comes ahead of Chinese New Year in which fireworks play a huge part. There is such demand for fireworks at this time of year that they are often shipped and stored in large quantities under unsafe conditions.