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Fireworks explode in Vietnam, killing 4

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HANOI, Vietnam >> Fireworks intended for Hanoi’s upcoming 1,000th birthday celebration exploded prematurely Wednesday, killing four people and injuring three others, police said.

One Singaporean and two Vietnamese were among the dead, while another body was burned beyond recognition and would require DNA testing for positive identification, police said. The injured included technicians from Singapore and Germany, according to another officer who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

An official from the German Embassy said they had been informed about the incident, but had no details. Singapore’s Foreign Ministry posted a response on its website saying its embassy in Hanoi had been notified that a Singaporean woman could be one of the fatalities, but it was not confirmed.

The blast occurred just before noon at My Dinh National Stadium, one of 29 sites in the capital where fireworks were planned for Sunday’s anniversary bash.

The official Vietnam News Agency quoted Hanoi Police Chief Lt. Gen. Nguyen Duc Nhanh as saying the initial investigation showed that the accident occurred during the transportation of two imported containers of fireworks.

“This is an unfortunate accident,” he said. “It will not affect work to ensure security for Hanoi’s 1,000th anniversary.”

The explosion shook buildings and shattered car windows. A giant column of smoke rose over the city and eyewitnesses reported seeing hundreds of people running from the site.

“I saw a lot of smoke. It was total chaos,” said a woman who lives a half mile away and cycled to the stadium after hearing the blast. Another woman who was selling ribbons and stickers outside said the stadium had been filled with people rehearsing for the ceremony.

Both women declined to give their names because of the sensitivity of the incident.

Police quickly sealed off the site. Reports by several online Vietnamese newspapers about the blast were abruptly removed after being posted, and some photographers working at the scene were detained and had their pictures confiscated by police.

The communist government closely monitors the country’s news media.

A YouTube video posted online showed a close-up shot of smoke and ash shooting above the stadium.

Hanoi has spent millions of dollars this year sprucing up the city for the grand celebration, which will include a parade of 30,000 people. The fireworks display was expected to be the event’s grand finale, involving water screens and lasers at the stadium to tell the story of Hanoi’s history.

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