Image: Smoke billows
Marwan Naamani  /  AFP - Getty Images
An explosion ripped through a fireworks warehouse in an industrial area in Dubai on Wednesday.
updated 3/26/2008 4:44:31 AM ET 2008-03-26T08:44:31

A massive explosion at a fireworks warehouse sparked a raging fire that raced through an industrial zone in Dubai on Wednesday, killing at least two people.

When the fire first erupted, ambulances and fire engines struggled to the scene through the city’s dense morning rush hour, while helicopters hovered above the ruined warehouse in Dubai’s al-Qouz Industrial Zone.

Heavy winds spread the flames quickly, engulfing at least 20 other warehouses and raising a pall of smoke visible for miles.

Five hours later, Dennis Boll, training manager for Quick Intervention Firefighting units, said “the fire was getting worse.” After nightfall, the fire was still raging.

“There was one big explosion and then some small ones,” said Sunber Raj, a laborer from India who was heading to the bus stop to go to work when the explosion shook this city of 1.5 million people. “The fire spread really quickly and the sun disappeared behind terrible smoke.”

Two people were killed and two others were hurt, the Civil Defense said.

The smoke cast a pall in the skies over Dubai’s business district, several miles away from the blaze, and around the Burj Dubai, billed as the world’s tallest skyscraper, which is still under construction but has become a symbol of Dubai’s huge construction boom in recent years.

An Emirati Interior Ministry official said the explosion occurred when fireworks were being loaded onto a truck for transport. The fireworks were believed to have been smuggled into the country illegally, and the owner of the warehouse where the fireworks were stored was detained for questioning, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The official put the extent of the damage at more than $250 million. Earlier in the day, Youssef Jabbour of Emirates Insurance Association estimated the damage at $150 million.

The Civil Defense said “inappropriate storage of fireworks may have been the cause of the explosion,” underlining that Dubai law prohibits storing fireworks and other explosive materials in industrial areas and housing complexes.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Fireworks factory blast kills two

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