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At least 31 killed in Mexico fireworks explosions

21 December 2016

A series of explosions at a fireworks market outside Mexico City has killed at least 31 people, officials said on December 20. More than 70 others were injured in the blasts at the San Pablito fireworks market in Tultepec, about 32km outside the city. Video footage from the scene showed thousands of fireworks rocketing into the air as they caught fire.

Mexican roadside fireworks shack - Shutterstock
Mexican roadside fireworks shack - Shutterstock

Eruviel Avila, governor of the State of Mexico, said some children had suffered burns to more than 90% of their bodies and they were being sent to the US city of Galveston, Texas, for specialised treatment. Most of those killed are so badly burned their bodies will have to be identified using DNA testing, he added.

Fireworks continued to explode after the initial blast, causing thick clouds of black smoke to rise from the site’s wrecked buildings and market stalls. Mexican media said the market had contained up to 300 tonnes of fireworks.

The San Pablito market is one of the mainstays of the economy in Tultepec where many people make a living from manufacturing fireworks, often in clandestine workshops. The Christmas season brings in brisk business as Mexicans stock up on pyrotechnics.

It was heavily damaged by similar fires in September 2005, when a chain of explosions just before the country's independence day celebrations injured 128 vendors and customers.

The market reopened the following year, but with more safety precautions including provisions that all structures must be built of brick and concrete and fireworks had to be kept beneath glass and not touched by customers. Firefighters were also stationed onsite.

The defence secretariat – which sells gunpowder for use in fireworks – also imposed new regulations, including limiting fireworks purchases to 10kg per person.

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