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Fire at chemical factory in India kills at least 9, with searchers looking for more victims

THANE, India (AP) — Rescuers combed through piles of debris and wreckage Friday searching for bodies after an explosion and fire at a chemical factory in western India killed at least nine people and injured 64 others, officials said.

The explosion in the factory’s boiler on Thursday led to a fire that affected nearby factories and houses in Maharashtra state’s Thane district, administrative official Sachin Shejal said.

Shejal said the blaze was extinguished and rescuers were searching through the debris to find two more bodies, though the process was hampered by the presence of huge debris.

Two bodies have been identified so far and seven are burnt beyond recognition, Shejal said.

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“We have asked the family members of the victims to submit DNA samples that can help us identify the bodies,” he said.

The cause of the explosion, which sent a huge cloud of gray smoke over the area, is being investigated.

The factory produced food coloring and used highly reactive chemicals that can cause explosions, India’s National Disaster Response Force said. Shejal said Thursday's explosion sent huge shock waves that damaged adjacent factories and shattered glass windows in nearby houses.

Indian police filed charges Friday of culpable homicide, including negligence in handling toxic substances, against the owners of the factory.

Fires are common across India because of poor safety standards and lax enforcement of regulations. Activists say builders often cut corners on safety to save costs and have accused civic authorities of negligence and apathy.

The Associated Press