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“Everything was catching fire”

Explosion at Mexican fireworks market kills at least 31

Explosion at Mexican fireworks market kills at least 31

The death toll from an explosion at a Mexican fireworks market on Tuesday has reached 31, with that figure likely to rise as more than 50 people are still missing and dozens more are in a critical condition in hospital.

Here’s what you need to know:

What happened?

The blast ripped through the popular San Pablito fireworks market in the city of Tutepec, about 25 miles north of Mexico City, on Tuesday. A plume of grey smoke coming from the site was visible for miles, while pyrotechnics were seen exploding in the sky above the market. More than 300 stalls made up the market, 80 percent of which were leveled in the blast.

“Everything was catching fire. Everything was exploding,” Crescencia Francisco Garcia, who witnessed the events, told the Guardian. “The stones were flying, pieces of brick, everything was flying.”

How did it happen?

The cause of the initial explosion is still unclear, with forensic investigators working at the site to establish the cause of the devastating blast.

According to a statement from the federal attorney general’s office, six separate blasts kicked off the destruction, with the director of Tultepec emergency services telling a local television station that a lack of basic safety precautions was the probable cause of the tragedy.

Will the death toll rise?

The State Attorney’s Office of Mexico puts the latest death toll at 31, but with Eruviel Avila, governor of the State of Mexico, confirming that 53 people are still missing and 72 injured, that number is likely to rise. Officials said that some bodies had been so badly burned they would only be identifiable through DNA evidence.

At least three children with burns to over 90 percent of their bodies have been transferred to Galveston, Texas, to receive specialist treatment.

Could this have been prevented?

The market was busier than usual on Tuesday as many Mexicans buy fireworks to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. According to state officials, the market was inspected by safety officials just last month, and they found no issues.

This is not the first time the market has been damaged by explosions. In 2005 a blast ripped through the stalls just before the country’s independence day, injuring over 100 customers and vendors. Since that explosion, officials have worked to make the San Pablito market safer, insisting all stalls are made of of brick and concrete as well as stationing firefighters on site.

Just last week, the director of the state government’s pyrotechnics institute, which monitors the fireworks industry, previously called the market one of the safest in all of Latin America, according to news website Animal Politico.

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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