Railway Car Carrying Fireworks Explodes in Central China

SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- A railroad car loaded with firecrackers exploded in the central Chinese province of Hunan, injuring 20 people, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.

The accident Thursday occurred as the car was stopped at the edge of the city of Changsha, Xinhua said. Pictures on the agency's Web site showed flames, sparks and smoke shooting into the nighttime sky from a group of burning railcars.

The blast ripped through a group of railway workers who had been repairing tracks next to the cars, injuring two seriously, the report said.

Residents living within 1-kilometer (0.6-mile) of the explosion were evacuated to safe areas while the fire was brought under control, it said.

Fireworks are widely used in China for wedding celebrations, business openings and at key holidays such as Chinese new year, which comes next year on Feb. 9.

Scores of people are killed each year in explosions at fireworks factories, both legal and illegal, as well as at homes and other places where the products are improperly stored.

An explosion Wednesday at a farmhouse near the northern city of Xi'an where fireworks were being made killed five people and inured eight.