Montreal-area fireworks factory explodes, two dead

Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:48pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Two people were killed on Thursday in a massive explosion and fire at a fireworks plant near Montreal, provincial police in Quebec said.

The early-morning blast at the B.E.M. Fireworks factory rocked the suburb of Coteau-du-Lac about 37 miles southwest of the city.

Police evacuated the surrounding area and temporarily closed a nearby highway. Residents were returning to their homes by midafternoon and roads had reopened, they said.

The cause of the blast and subsequent blaze is not known.

The company was not immediately available for comment. B.E.M. on its website says it has more than 25 years of experience "in the conception, production and performance of fireworks displays."

An amateur video of the explosion posted online showed a plume of smoke and debris billowing into the sky and a building in flames.

The Montreal Gazette newspaper quoted eyewitnesses as saying there had been two explosions about one hour apart and that they felt the ground shake.

The explosion comes ahead of July 1 national birthday celebrations, the busiest season for fireworks in Canada.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Xavier Briand)