At least 26 people were killed and some 70 injured in a huge explosion at an open-air fireworks market in Mexico as shoppers stocked up on bangers and rockets for the holidays.
The blasts ripped through the San Pablito fireworks market in the manner of a chain reaction on Tuesday afternoon. With about 300 stalls, the fireworks market, in the town of Tultepec in the central State of Mexico about 20 miles north of the capital, was the biggest in the country.
Alejandro Gómez, prosecutor for the State of Mexico, told reporters at the scene that 26 people had died. Scores were still feared missing, including children, and some of the injured were in life-threatening condition.
Jorge Becerril, a reporter for Milenio Television, said he had seen at least 30 bodies and more than 100 people and security forces with sniffer dogs hunting for survivors. Two children were feared among the dead.
Federal police confirmed in a tweet that 70 injured had been taken to hospital. Mexico’s civil protection department said the cause of the blast was not immediately known and one woman went into labour amid the explosion.
Eruviel Avila, governor of the State of Mexico, told television station Foro TV three children with burns covering up to 50 per cent of their bodies would be flown to Galveston in Texas for treatment, with the costs covered by the state.
He also pledged financial aid for the artisan firework makers whose livelihood was destroyed in the blast, saying theirs was a thousand year-old tradition in Tultepec.
Dramatic footage of the explosion aired on social media and television showed the sky lit up with rockets and loud bangs, with the market reduced to rubble and a giant plume of smoke billowing into the sky.
Tultepec has been associated with firework making since the 19th century and it is an important pillar of the local economy. Mexicans traditionally let off rockets and other fireworks during holiday celebrations.
Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico’s president, expressed his sorrow. “My condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives in this accident and I wish a speedy recovery for those injured,” he tweeted.
“All of a sudden it started booming,” Crescencia Francisco García told AP news agency. “I and the others surrounding me all took off running.”
The San Pablito market suffered a fire in 2005 ahead of Mexico’s independence day celebrations and another the following year but had never witnessed a tragedy of this size.
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