Thursday 22 March 2018

More than 30 die in latest blast at Mexican fireworks market

Investigators work among the wreckage following explosions at the San Pablito fireworks market Picture: Reuters
Investigators work among the wreckage following explosions at the San Pablito fireworks market Picture: Reuters

Christopher Sherman

At least 31 people have been killed and dozens more badly burned after a series of explosions ripped through a fireworks market on the outskirts of Mexico City.

A chain reaction of blasts hit stalls bustling with hundreds of shoppers at the San Pablito fireworks market in Tultepec.

The facility was especially well stocked for the Christmas period, a time when fireworks are particularly popular in Mexico.

The third such blast to ravage the market on the northern outskirts of Mexico's capital since 2005 sent up a plume of smoke which was lit up by an eruption of smaller explosions and flashes of light.

Once the smoke cleared, the open-air bazaar was reduced to a stark expanse of ash, rubble and the charred metal of fireworks stands, casting a pall over the country's Christmas season.

Mexico State health officials said about 60 people were taken to hospital for injuries after Tuesday's explosion, including for severe burns, in some cases over 90pc of their bodies.

Yesterday, 47 people remained in hospital, including 10 children. Authorities have not yet said what may have caused the explosions.

Mexico State chief prosecutor Alejandro Gomez said the death toll rose to 31, after several people died at local hospitals.

Mr Gomez said some of the dead were so badly burned neither their age nor gender could be immediately determined. He said the toll could rise because 11 people were listed as missing and some body parts had been found at the scene.

A list of the nine bodies identified so far showed one of the dead included a three-month-old baby boy and a 12-year-old girl. Mr Gomez said a total of seven male minors were among the dead.

Survivor Crescencia Francisco Garcia said she was in the middle of the grid of stalls when the thunderous explosions began. She saw people suffering from burns and cuts, and lots of blood.

"Everything was catching fire. Everything was exploding," Ms Francisco said. "The stones were flying, pieces of brick, everything was flying."

State governor Eruviel Avila said that "we are going to identify who is responsible".

Tultepec mayor Armando Portuguez Fuentes said demand for noisy firecrackers and rockets soared at this time of year.

"We are obviously in the high season," Mr Portuguez said. "There was more product than usual because we are a few days away from Christmas, a few days away from new year."

Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto said via Twitter: "My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident and my wishes for a quick recovery for the injured."

A similar fire engulfed the market in 2005, sparking explosions that flattened hundreds of stalls ahead of Mexico's Independence Day.

A year later, another accident there destroyed hundreds of stands.

Irish Independent

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