A large explosion has ripped through a fireworks factory near the Australian city of Sydney, damaging nearby houses.
No injuries have been reported, but 10 homes have been evacuated in a one-kilometre exclusion zone around the Howard and Sons plant at Wallerawang.
The blast could have been caused by an intruder, a police spokesman said.
New Year’s Eve fireworks displays in three state capitals are now in doubt because of the explosion, factory owner Andrew Howard has said.
A bomb squad from the New South Wales state police is on the scene investigating the incident.
Police said fireworks stored in a shipping container exploded, spreading flames and explosions across the site, and it appeared as if other containers had been opened.
“I can tell you there were no people legitimately on the site when the explosion occurred,” police superintendent Greg Martin told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
He did not rule out the possibility that an unauthorised person had broken into the factory and been caught in the blast.
Mr Howard said the fireworks in his factory were not extremely sensitive. He told ABC they would require “ignition or an ignition source, or a fire or sparks of some nature, to set them off”.
Displays in doubt
Witnesses watched helplessly as the factory was hit by a series of explosions over a 90-minute period late on Saturday night.
“It sounded and felt like a mini-earthquake shaking all the buildings,” a Wallerawang resident told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Windows were smashed in houses more than one kilometre away from the factory, and the blast was heard over 30km (19 miles) away.
As many as 20 buildings on the site have been completely destroyed and 30 others have been damaged, said Mr Howard.
He said the run-up to New Year’s Eve was the busiest time for the company.
And although Howard and Sons was not supplying fireworks for the Sydney Harbour New Year’s Eve display, the company was set to supply “just about everywhere else”, including three state capitals that may now have to find an alternative source.
(Text from BBC News)