Sofia, Oct. 2, (dpa/GNA) – A blast in a Bulgarian explosives factory killed 15 people, civil protection chief Nikolay Nikolov said Thursday.
Thirteen men and two women died, he said, and another three people were injured outside the facility in Gorni Lom in north-eastern Bulgaria.
The blast occurred on Wednesday, but rescuers and investigators could not confirm the death toll until there was no longer a threat of further detonations, 24 hours after the initial explosion.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear and would be investigated, Bulgarian chief state prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said.
The privately-owned plant had been producing explosives for civil use and dismantling obsolete ordnance.
It was apparently operating under lax safety procedures and had recently been served several penalty notices, Labour Minister Yordan Hristoskov said.
Employees were also paid less than the minimum wage of 340 leva (220 dollars) per month and were poorly trained, local reports quoted officials as saying.
A similar incident in an ammunition depot on the outskirts of Sofia occurred in July 2008 with no casualties.
Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union three years later. It is the poorest among the 28 nations in the bloc.