UPDATES DEATH, INJURY TOLL, ADDS STATEMENTS FROM MEXICAN PRESIDENT, INTERIOR STATE MINISTER, AGENCY CHIEF
By Alix Hardy
At least 24 people were killed and 49 wounded Thursday when a series of explosions rocked a fireworks factory in the town of Tultepec, north of Mexico City, said officials.
The first explosion occurred around 9:40 a.m. local time (1430GMT), the officials said in a press release.
Ambulances of the Red Cross as well as police, firefighters, town hall workers and neighbors rushed to the scene to rescue the victims. Three more explosions were heard around 20 minutes later, officials said, adding they were the deadliest.
The dead included a minor, a member of the Civil Protection Brigades, four firefighters and a federal and municipal police officer, the officials added.
“Among those who lost their lives in the Tultepec emergency were firefighters and police officers doing their duty, said Luis Felipe Puentes, head of Mexico’s Civil Protection Agency.
In a post on Twitter, President Enrique Peña Nieto offered his condolences to “all families of the victims” and wished “a quick recovery” to those who were injured.
The wounded were transferred by helicopters to various regional hospitals and medical centers by air rescue unit Grupo Relampagos, according to the Red Cross.
Authorities said they would have to determine whether the factory had a state permit, adding they would later conduct a comprehensive audit of all permits distributed in the area.
“We understand that pyrotechnics are a way of life and a longstanding tradition of which we are proud. But they must be regulated,” said Interior State Minister Alejandro Ozuna.
A number of deadly explosions have occurred in Tultepec, which specializes in fireworks production. In a recent incident on June 25, an explosion in the same neighborhood killed one and wounded eight.
On Dec. 20, 2016, 42 people were killed and 70 wounded in a series of blasts at the San Pablito market, the largest fireworks market in the country, which was crammed due to the coming festive season.