'Many badly hurt' as huge fire engulfs Abidjan paint factory

Abidjan - A huge fire ripped through a paint factory in the Ivorian capital on Wednesday, causing multiple explosions, and witnesses said several people were badly burnt.

There was no immediate word on the tally of people caught in the blaze, which sent a thick column of smoke high above Abidjan's industrial zone, an AFP correspondent said.

But witnesses spoke of seeing several people with bad burns and of fears that workers were trapped inside the Drocolor paint factory.

Police and rescuers were unable to confirm or deny the accounts.

Dozens of firefighters were trying to tackle the blaze, which also spread to the nearby shops and boutiques, gutting at least 12 stores.

Groups of young men could be seen running with buckets and bowls of water in a bid to put out the fire in small shops, and others frantically sought to remove petrol cans, crates and other flammable material.

"The fire started around 08:00, 09:00- there were flames then about a dozen explosions. Then the fire spread very quickly," said Dieudonne Ghakobi, who runs a small upholstery business.

"The fire was impossible to stop. The firemen can't do anything, they don't have the means" said blacksmith Bema Kone, who told AFP that responders had carried out a fire drill at the same factory just two weeks ago.

In tears, Abu Bama, who also works in upholstery, said his entire livelihood had gone up in flames.

"They warned me there was a fire. But by the time I arrived it was too late - I've lost everything. The shop, my stock, the armchairs I was repairing," said the distraught 32-year-old.

By late morning, the blaze was under control with the flames dying down and the security forces deployed in the area to prevent any looting.