New Delhi (CNN)Twenty-three people were killed and 14 others injured in a large explosion at a firecracker factory Wednesday in northern India, police said.
The explosion and ensuing blaze was so fierce that it led to the collapse of the factory building, said inspector general Surinderpal Singh Parmar.
“We are trying to figure out the cause. Police, firefighters and disaster management personnel are at the site looking for any extra bodies in the debris,” Parmar said Wednesday.
The National Disaster Response Force launched search and rescue operations Wednesday afternoon and finished overnight. By Thursday, a forensic team had begun working on the site and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the explosion.
Singh said the blast was so strong that it shattered the windows and collapsed some walls of nearby buildings. A few pedestrians in the area at the time of explosion were also injured, said Parmar.
Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said in a tweet that he had ordered a magisterial probe into the blast.
Parmer said the firecracker manufacturers may have been operating illegally. “They had not got the license renewed to make firecrackers since the last two years. It seems like a lapse on the part of the manufacturer,” he said.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind offered his condolences a tweet, saying: “Saddened to learn about the loss of lives due to an explosion at a firecracker factory in Batala, Punjab. Condolences to bereaved families impacted by this tragedy and wishing an early recovery to those injured.”
Firecrackers and fireworks are widely used in India during festivals and celebrations, particularly around the biggest Hindu festival of Diwali which falls at the end of October this year.
On Saturday, at least 12 people were killed and 58 injured after an explosion at a chemical factory in the western state of Maharashtra.