Chinese province shuts all fireworks factories after explosion kills 20

BEIJING (AP) — All nine fireworks factories in Heilongjiang province in northeast China were ordered shut Thursday, days after a blast at one of them killed 20 people.

The factories have been told to dismantle their production facilities by the end of the month, according to a statement on the website of the Heilongjiang Work Safety Administration.

"We have rescinded their permits for production," the statement said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said three government officials and two factory executives were fired or detained after Monday's blast. It said a preliminary investigation showed the plant was illegally producing fireworks.

Up to 50 people were working at the fireworks factory in the city of Yichun when it was rocked by an explosion, damaging nearby buildings and sparking secondary blasts.

A total of 153 people were injured by the blast, which could be felt up to 2 miles (5 kilometers) away and smashed windows in the local government offices and other buildings, the Xinhua reported.

Safety is lax at Chinese fireworks plants, and accidents are common. Dozens of people also die each year from unsafe handling of fireworks while celebrating weddings and traditional holidays.