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4 detained after deadly highway collapse, truck explosion in China
BEIJING -- Chinese authorities have detained four people, state media said Saturday, a day after at least 11 people died when a truck loaded with fireworks for a Lunar New Year celebration exploded, collapsing an elevated portion of highway in central China.
The accident sent vehicles plummeting about 100 feet. State-run China Central Television [CCTV] said 11 people were confirmed dead and another 11 injured. The official Xinhua News Agency said the collapse smashed and buried at least 25 vehicles. Rescue work continued Saturday.
CCTV said the truck took the road without proper registration and had false papers that claimed it was transporting general merchandise.
Preliminary investigations blamed the explosion for the collapse of the elevated highway, according to a statement by the provincial government of Henan. An 260-foot stretch of the highway in the province's Mianchi county collapsed, scattering blackened chunks of debris and shattered windows of a nearby truck stop.
A truck driver interviewed on CCTV said he was 20 yards away from the explosion.
"I heard a huge bang and immediately braked. I saw small fireballs falling down one by one," said the unidentified driver, whose windshield was smashed from the impact of the blast.
Photos posted online by Xinhua showed a stretch of elevated highway gone, with one truck's back wheels perched at the edge of a shorn-off section of the highway. Other photos showed firefighters below spraying water on scorched hunks of concrete, wrecked trucks and flattened shipping containers.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the explosion. It occurred about 55 miles west of Luoyang, an ancient capital of China known for grottoes of Buddhist statues carved from limestone cliffs.
Fireworks are an enormously popular part of Chinese Lunar New Year festivities. To meet demand, fireworks are made, shipped and stored in large quantities, sometimes in unsafe conditions.
In 2006, on the first day of the Lunar New Year, a storeroom of fireworks exploded at a temple fair in Henan, killing 36 people and injuring dozens more.
In 2000, an unlicensed fireworks factory in southern China exploded, killing 33 people, including 13 primary and secondary-school students.