An explosion ripped through Mexico’s best-known fireworks market on the outskirts of Mexico City Tuesday, killing at least 27 people and injuring scores more while sending a huge plume of charcoal-gray smoke billowing into the sky.
Reuters, citing local emergency services, reported that 27 people were killed at the open-air San Pablito Market in Tultepec, in the State of Mexico.
National Civil Protection Coordinator Luis Felipe Puente initially told Milenio TV that 60 people were hurt. A revised count was not immediately available in the wake of the fatalities.
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 who rushed to help combed through the ashes. Firefighters hosed down still-smoldering hotspots.
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 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.