Explosions leveled a fireworks factory Tuesday, killing two people, injuring two others and shaking windows as far as 30 miles away, authorities said.
"It sounded like the biggest bomb that ever was," said Norma Oswalt, who lives about three miles northeast of the plant. "It shook my back porch and shook the screens all over the house."
The names of the two people found dead were not released. Both were believed to be employees at the Mid-South Pyrotechnics plant six miles southeast of this east-central Mississippi town.
"We felt two distinct booms, and the windows on the east side of our building, which is located in the center of campus, were rattled," said Sammy McDavid, spokesman for Mississippi State University, 30 miles west of Columbus.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ed Prescott said people living within a mile of the plant were told to evacuate after the first explosion for fear that more would occur.
Several smaller explosions were reported after emergency units arrived, authorities said, and the sounds of exploding firecrackers could be heard from the plant area several hours after the initial blast.
Authorities said they had no idea what might have sparked the explosion or how much gunpowder or chemicals were stored at the plant.
In Elkton, Md., another fireworks plant exploded Tuesday afternoon, seriously burning a worker over much of his body, authorities said.