BEIJING (AP) — A state news agency has reported that a blast at an illegal fireworks factory in rural China has killed at least nine people.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday the blast in Fengxian county in the northwestern province of Shaanxi also injured two people.

Xinhua said a preliminary investigation by local police showed the blast was caused by the illegal production of firecrackers.

Dozens of people in China die each year from unsafe handling of fireworks while celebrating weddings and traditional holidays.

The illegal manufacture of fireworks increases every year in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, which starts in early February this year.

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