Tuesday 20 August 2019

WATCH: Explosion at Mexico fireworks market kills at least 29 and injures dozens

This image made from video recorded from a passing car shows an explosion ripping through the San Pablito fireworks' market in Tultepec, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (Jose Luis Tolentino via AP)
This image made from video recorded from a passing car shows an explosion ripping through the San Pablito fireworks' market in Tultepec, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (Jose Luis Tolentino via AP)
Soldiers stand guard after an explosion at the San Pablito fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, in Tultepec, Mexico, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Firefighters and rescue personnel stand near a destroyed house after an explosion at the San Pablito fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, in Tultepec, Mexico, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A sign reading "No alcoholic beverages" is seen next to flattened houses after an explosion at the San Pablito fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, in Tultepec, Mexico, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A police officer walks through the remains of houses destroyed in an explosion at the San Pablito fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, in Tultepec, Mexico, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
An ambulance leaves the San Pablito fireworks market after an explosion, outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, in Tultepec, Mexico, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
(Pro Tultepec via APTN)
Firefighters and rescue workers walk through the scorched ground of Mexico's best-known fireworks market after an explosion explosion ripped through it, inTultepec, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
Police officers stand near the remains of houses destroyed in an explosion at the San Pablito fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, in Tultepec, Mexico, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Local residents comb through ashes and rubble at the scorched ground of Mexico's best-known fireworks market after an explosion explosion ripped through it, inTultepec, Mexico. Photo: AP
Firefighters and rescue workers walk through the scorched ground of Mexico's best-known fireworks market after an explosion explosion ripped through it, inTultepec, Mexico. Photo: AP
Firefighters and rescue workers remove debris from the scorched ground of Mexico's best-known fireworks market after an explosion explosion ripped through it, in Tultepec, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Photo: AP
People search amid the debris left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers search amid the debris left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City killing at least nine people and injuring 70. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Survivors search amid the ruins left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City on December 20. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
People walk amid the ruins left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City on December 20. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters work amid the debris left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City killing at least nine people and injuring 70. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters work amid the debris left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City on December 20. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
View of the utter destruction caused by a huge blast in a fireworks market in Mexico City on December 20. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Military police work amid the debris left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City on December 20. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers and rescue workers search amid the ruins left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City on December 20. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers and rescue workers search amid the ruins left by a huge blast that occurred in a fireworks market in Mexico City on December 20. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers search amid the debris left by a huge blast that occured in a fireworks market in Mexico City killing at least nine people and injuring 70. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Christopher Sherman and Peter Orsi

A powerful chain-reaction explosion ripped through Mexico's best-known fireworks market killing at least 29 people and leaving dozens more badly burned.

The San Pablito fireworks market on the outskirts of Mexico City was especially well stocked for the Christmas holidays and bustling with hundreds of shoppers when it was hit by the third serious blast in 11 years.

Tuesday afternoon's explosion sent up a towering plume of smoke that was lit up by a staccato of bangs 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 72 people were being treated for injuries from the explosion, including for severe burns, in some cases over 90% of their bodies. Ten children were among those in hospital.

The authorities have not yet said what may have caused the explosions which took place in Mexico State, which rings the country's capital.

Survivor Crescencia Francisco Garcia said she was in the middle of the grid of stalls when the thunderous explosions began. She froze, reflexively looked up at the sky and then took off running through the smoke once she realised everyone was doing so. As she ran she saw people with burns and cuts, and lots of blood.

A boy takes his helmet off as he pauses while working at the scorched ground of the open-air San Pablito fireworks market, in Tultepec, outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A boy takes his helmet off as he pauses while working at the scorched ground of the open-air San Pablito fireworks market, in Tultepec, outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

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

Mexico State Governor Eruviel Avila said that in addition to the 26 people who were killed at the market, three more victims died later in hospital.

"We are going to identify who is responsible," he said.

Sirens wailed and a heavy scent of gunpowder lingered in the air well after the thunderous explosions at the market, which were widely seen in a dramatic video.

The smoking, burned-out shells of vehicles ringed the perimeter, and first responders and local residents wearing blue masks over their mouths combed through the ash and debris. Firefighters hosed down still-smouldering hotspots.

Tultepec Mayor Armando Portuguez Fuentes said the market was especially well stocked because demand for noisy firecrackers and rockets increases at this time of year.

"We are obviously in the high season," he said. "There was more product than usual because we are a few days away from Christmas, a few days away from New Year's, and those are the days when the products made here are consumed the most."

He said the manufacture and sale of fireworks is a key part of the local economy. He added that it is regulated by law and under the "constant supervision" of the defence department, which oversees firearms and explosives.

"This is part of the activity of our town. It is what gives us identity," he said. "We know it is high-risk, we regret this greatly, but unfortunately many people's livelihoods depend on this activity."

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

A fire engulfed the San Pablito Market in 2005, touching off a chain of explosions that levelled hundreds of stalls just ahead of Mexico's Independence Day. A year later a similar incident at the same market also destroyed hundreds of stands.

Deadly fireworks explosions have occurred with some regularity in Mexico, including in 2002, when a blast at a market in the Gulf coast city of Veracruz killed 29 people.

In 1999, 63 people died when an explosion of illegally stored fireworks destroyed part of the city of Celaya, and in 1988, a fireworks blast in Mexico City's La Merced market killed at least 68.

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