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2 workers die in blast at plant near Montreal

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 8:18 p.m.

MONTREAL — An explosion at a fireworks warehouse killed two workers on Thursday, leaving a huge plume of smoke blanketing an area west of Montreal, police say.

A series of explosions spread from the charred building after the initial blast at B.E.M. Fireworks near Valleyfield, Quebec. Images from the scene showed a building near a major highway completely destroyed.

Provincial police said two bodies were found in the wreckage, but they did not identify them.

Nearly two hours after the blast, fireworks could be heard exploding at the scene of the blaze, which continued to burn out of control hours after the explosion, according to witnesses.

Local fire Chief Stephane Massicotte said that because the warehouse was filled with pyrotechnics, battling the blaze was difficult.

“This caused a huge amount of flames and very intense heat,” Massicotte told reporters.

He said 150 firefighters were used to battle the flames, which were under control by early afternoon. Reporters on the ground indicated that there were no fire hydrants in the vicinity.

“All of a sudden, I heard, ‘boom, boom, bang!'” Mario Cramerstetter said from his office, just more than a mile away from the site.

“Initially, I thought it was a bulldozer or a tractor, but then we saw a big puff smoke. We kept on hearing popping, fireworks going off all the time.”

Cramerstetter said it seemed as if a small building caught fire first and then spread to a larger storage unit.

“We got really, really, really scared,” said Ginette Liboiron, who runs a convenience store across a highway overpass.

“I thought my store was falling to the ground. It shook like you can't imagine... We all went outside to see and saw the big, incredible smoke,” she said. “It went high up in the air, then it became black, black, black!”

B.E.M. has been designing and manufacturing pyrotechnics and fireworks for 25 years.

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