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25 People Dead in India's Explosion - 2001-08-16

At least 25 people were killed Thursday in southern India in an explosion at a government-owned dynamite factory. Officials say the death toll is likely to rise.

Authorities says the massive explosion ripped through the factory's detonators unit Thursday morning at Katpadi, some 150 kilometers west of Tamil Nadu's capital Madras. The factory produces nitrate explosives and detonators used mostly in mining.

Police say the explosion was heard for miles around. It completely flattened the unit where the explosion occurred, killing most of the 30 people on duty at the time of the blast. Several people outside the unit were also injured. Rescue operations to recover the bodies of victims buried under the debris have been slowed down by the presence of detonators at the site of the explosion.

Tamil Nadu government's chief spokesman Shrinagesh describes the blast as "huge."

"It was supposed to have been a big explosion. It's supposed to be a huge explosion. This is just one unit of the whole factory that went up in flames.."

The cause of the blast is not known, but a government statement said it may have been caused by the "accidental ignition" of explosives stored in the factory. Two government ministers have gone to the site to lead an investigation into the cause of the blast.

The state government has announced monetary compensation for those killed in the blast. Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalitha also says she has ordered "extensive measures" to prevent further blasts at the explosives factory.