Tultepec: Mexican Federal Police say nine people have died and 70 more have been injured by an explosion that ripped through a fireworks market near the capital.
The Federal Police announced what it called a “preliminary” toll from Thursday’s blast. President Enrique Pena Nieto has sent his condolences to families of the dead via Twitter.
Sirens wailed and a heavy scent of gunpowder lingered in the air after the afternoon blast at the market, where most of the fireworks stalls were completely leveled. 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 rubble and ash. Firefighters hosed down still-smoldering hotspots.
Crescencia Francisco Garcia arrived in the afternoon to buy fireworks and said she was near the middle of the grid of stalls when the explosions began around 2:30 p.m.
“All of a sudden it started booming,” the 41-year-old Mexico City resident said. “I and the others surrounding me all took off running.”
Eventually Garcia was able to find her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren who were waiting in a car just inside the perimeter fence. The Mexican Red Cross said it sent 10 ambulances with 50 paramedics to the scene. Puente said some nearby homes were also damaged. The scene remained dangerous and he asked people not to come within 3 miles (5 kilometers) to avoid hampering the emergency response.
Fireworks continued to pop off long after the blast, and Puente added that there was no choice but to let any unexploded fireworks be consumed. A fire engulfed the same market in 2005, touching off a chain of explosions that leveled hundreds of stalls just ahead of Mexico’s Independence Day. A similar fire at the San Pablito Market also destroyed hundreds of stands in September 2006.
Many in Mexico traditionally celebrate holidays — including Christmas and New Year’s — by setting off noisy firecrackers and rockets.