Large pile of confiscated illegal fireworks explodes in southern Philippines, injuring 27
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Large pile of confiscated illegal fireworks explodes in southern Philippines, injuring 27

At least 27 people, including 19 policemen and other government workers, were injured when a large pile of confiscated illegal fireworks detonated in a powerful explosion in the southern Philippines, damaging homes, hotels and an international airport, officials said Tuesday.

Two of the victims of Monday afternoon’s blast remain in serious condition in a hospital in the southern port city of Zamboanga, where the mayor has ordered an investigation into why a planned controlled destruction of fireworks by police ordnance experts escalated into the massive explosion.

Police explosives experts were arranging fireworks in a clearing near a naval gun range for a controlled detonation when a large pile that had been doused with water suddenly exploded. The blast was so powerful it shattered glass windows within a three-kilometer (almost two-mile) radius, officials and witnesses said.

The passenger terminal at Zamboanga International Airport, about two kilometers (more than a mile) from the blast site, suffered minor damage, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said, but no one was injured and there were no flight delays.

The illegally manufactured fireworks were being shipped from a warehouse in Zamboanga City where an accidental explosion killed five people and injured several others on June 29. Two controlled destructions of the fireworks before Monday were carried out without incident, Zamboanga officials said.

Many superstitious Filipinos set off powerful firecrackers, especially on New Year’s Eve, believing that the loud celebrations — largely inspired by Chinese tradition — ward off bad luck and evil. The dangerous tradition has somewhat waned due to government restrictions and tough economic times, but it has survived in many areas.