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.
“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.