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At least 17 dead in Burma blaze

A fire followed by several explosions has engulfed warehouses and neighbouring homes in Burma's main city of Yangon, killing at least 17 people and injuring 108.

The blasts occurred as firefighters were putting out a blaze that had started in a state-owned warehouse before spreading to other warehouses and nearby homes and buildings before dawn.

Six of the dead were firefighters, a home ministry source said. He added the fire and blasts destroyed 16 warehouses, a Buddhist monastery and 76 homes in Mingalar Taung Nyunt township in eastern Yangon.

A total of 108 injured people were brought to Yangon General Hospital, said a senior nurse.

"Many of the dead were hit by flying debris of broken walls and stone slabs that were flung on to the streets due to the explosions," Maung Win, a 45-year-old resident, told reporters.

The explosions rocked the entire city, jolting residents from sleep. A 20ft-wide and 15ft-deep crater was visible at the site. Black smoke was seen billowing from the rubble.

Firefighters were searching for bodies from among the debris.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, but the home ministry official said the explosions were due to chemicals, including ammonia and potassium nitrate, stored in one of the warehouses.

Residents said the fire started in a warehouse that stored electronic goods then spread to other warehouses and houses.

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