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Firework Factory Explosion Kills 9 in China

A Chinese province halted all fireworks production following a factory explosion that killed nine people, official media reported Sunday.

The order from the Shaanxi government followed Friday's' blast at the Xinping Firecrackers Co., where workers were rushing to fill orders for this month's Lunar New Year festival, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The explosion tore through seven workshops in Shaanxi's Pucheng county where more than 100 workers were laboring in cramped conditions, it said.

Provincial officials have ordered police and government safety and commerce departments to conduct a "thorough overhaul" of all fireworks factories in the province, Xinhua said. It gave no details and did not say when the factories would be allowed to restart production.

The factory's manager, Qu Pingxin, initially fled before turning himself in to authorities on Saturday, Xinhua said.

Pucheng county is a traditional base for the industry in the province, employing 30,000 people and producing 300 million yuan ($44 million) worth of fireworks last year, Xinhua said.

Six workers died Sunday when the highway overpass they were building in Yunnan province collapsed, a further example of the human cost of China's breakneck drive for development. The overpass is part of a massive new airport complex in the provincial capital, Kunming.

The 23 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) project is designed to handle 38 million passengers and 1.3 million tons of cargo per year by its completion in 2020.

About 100,000 people die each year in industrial and traffic accidents in China, many in the country's notoriously deadly coal mines.