The outdoor festivities of Sta Marija in Mosta are expected to be cancelled on Sunday following a massive explosion at the 15th August fireworks factory this afternoon.

The explosion left one person dead and others missing, although officials have dismissed earlier reports that three persons had died.

Club officials said the victim was Mario Dimech, the secretary of the August 15 Pyrothecnic Society of Mosta. (See video)

The blast, at Dwejra, outside Mosta, was heard at precisely 3 p.m., sending a big mushroom shaped cloud over the area. There was utter devastation all around the site, with boulders strewn over a wide area. A frantic search immediately started for people on the site - there had been as many of 15 who were preparing fireworks to be let off tomorrow and on Sunday.

A number of ambulances were immediately rushed to the spot where a number of fires have broken out and a large number of people, most of them crying, have gathered. The people on site include Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca, acting Prime Minister Tonio Borg, Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said, MLP deputy leader Anglu Farrugia, PN whip David Agius and PL MP Michael Farrugia.

The police ringed the area and let no one approach, and some persons quarrelled with the officers as they tried to get closer.

The police said just after 9 a.m. that the search tonight has been called off and will continue tomorrow morning.

The explosion was heard practically across Malta, with readers reporting hearing it in Marsascala and Mellieha. Some said there had been three explosions, of which one was significantly bigger than the others.

Mosta had already been in mourning for another man who died in an explosion in another fireworks factory at Bidnija near Mosta last year and the fireworks programme had been restricted.

Mark Laferla, a reader from San Pawl tat-Targa, said it seemed like the burning wreckage landed in nearby fields and started multiple smaller fires.

Doors and windows, he said, shook and it felt similar to an earthquake.

The blast is the fourth involving a fireworks factory this year.

Two people died in a blast at St Sebastian fireworks factory near Qormi in Febrruary and another man died in an explosion between Zejtun and Marsaxlokk in May but there were no injuries in an explosion at a Gharghur fireworks factory in April.

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