Explosion at fireworks factory kills four, injures 97 in northwest Turkey

(Updates with HDP official's reaction and background)

A fireworks factory explosion killed at least four people in Turkey’s Marmara province of Sakarya on Friday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

At least 97 factory workers were reported injured –  one in critical condition – and at least 45 more were still unaccounted for, T24 reported the minister as saying of the incident in Hendek district.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the fire caused by the explosion – heard from many parts of Yukarıçalıca city, some 50 kilometres away – was under control and ordered Koca, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Labour Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk to the area to oversee rescue operations, the news outlet said.

Firefighting efforts are still continuing, Turkey's main national disaster management (AFAD) said in a statement, adding that 112 firefighter and gendarmerie teams were dispatched to the area.

According to readouts from the AFAD’s earthquake recording devices in Hendek, three explosions were recorded at 11:15 and 11:18 a.m. local time, with the first blast occurring at 11:05, T24 said.

Turkey’s Red Crescent Chairman Kerem Kınık warned the people living in the residential areas near the explosion.

"People in the settlements close to the area where the explosion happened should not breathe smoke by entering their homes and closing their doors and windows,” Kınık said.

Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said that his municipality was ready to dispatch all its teams in support.

Garo Paylan, a Diyarbakır deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, said the explosion on Friday was not an accident but the latest in a series of incidents at the site that amounted to “murder”.

“5 workers were killed and 100 were injured in the explosion that took place in the same factory recently,” Paylan said on Twitter.

“They'll call it an accident. It's not an accident, it's murder!”

A YolTV investigative report, however, has said the same fireworks factory, owned by Coşkunlar Havai Fişek Fabrikası, has had five similar incidents and a fire in the last 11 years.

In 2009, two different explosions killed two workers and injured another 37. In 2011, an explosion killed a worker and injured 10. In 2013, another explosion injured 6, while in 2014's explosion, another worker was killed and two were injured. In 2017, a fire in the depot area injured two more workers.

Another explosion killed two workers in manufacturer’s Nigde branch in 2018.

Coşkunlar Havai Fişek Fabrikası is a member of the conservative Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), which is known for its close ties with Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

Yaşar Coşkun is a member of the Coşkunlar Firework Factory's board and the head of MÜSİAD branch in Sakarya. Owners of the firm are known to be also closely linked with the government, according to the YolTV report.