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45 Dead as Fire Triggers Explosion in Pakistan - 2003-08-03

In northern Pakistan, a powerful blast caused by explosives used for road building has killed at least 45 people and injured nearly 150 others.

The blast took place late Saturday in the mountainous Daimer district, about 250 kilometers northeast of the Pakistani capital. A senior police official in the area, Adam Shah, who was on the scene, said an electrical short circuit triggered a fire in a house where the explosives were being stored. He said almost all the men in the village were busy fighting the fire when it reached the explosives and blew up the home.

The blast is said to have demolished many of the houses in the village.

Authorities said army helicopters were called in to evacuate the seriously wounded to hospitals in Gilgit, the main town in the northern region.

Police and hospital officials fear the death toll from the accident could rise as some of the victims are in serious condition and at least a dozen people are still missing.

Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali has asked the government to investigate the incident.

According to local authorities, 25 cases, each with 50 kilograms of dynamite, were illegally stored in the house of a local contractor. The dynamite was to be used for road-building projects in the mountainous region.