At least 31 people have been killed and dozens more were badly burned after a series of explosions ripped through a fireworks market on the outskirts of Mexico City.
A chain reaction of blasts hit stalls which were bustling with hundreds of shoppers at the San Pablito fireworks market in Tultepec.
The facility was especially well stocked for the Christmas period, a time when fireworks are particularly popular in Mexico.
The third such blast to ravage the market on the northern outskirts of Mexico’s capital since 2005 sent up a towering plume of smoke which was lit up by an eruption of smaller explosions and flashes of light.
Once the smoke cleared, the open-air bazaar was reduced to a stark expanse of ash, rubble and the charred metal of fireworks stands, casting a pall over the country’s Christmas season.
Mexico State health officials said about 60 people were taken to hospital for injuries after the explosion, including for severe burns, in some cases over 90 per cent of their bodies.
Yesterday, 47 people remained in hospital, including ten children. Authorities have not yet said what may have caused the explosions.
Mexico State chief prosecutor Alejandro Gomez said the death toll rose to 31, after several people died at local hospitals.
Mr Gomez said some of the dead were so badly burned that neither their age nor their gender could be immediately determined. He said the toll could rise because 11 people were listed as missing and some body parts have been found at the scene.
A list of the nine bodies identified so far showed one of the dead included a three-month-old baby boy and a 12-year-old girl. Mr Gomez said a total of seven male minors were among the dead.
Survivor Crescencia Francisco Garcia said she was in the middle of the grid of stalls when the thunderous explosions began. She froze, reflexively looked up at the sky and then took off running through the smoke once she realized everyone was doing so. As she ran she saw people suffering from burns and cuts, and lots of blood.
“Everything was catching fire. Everything was exploding,” Ms Francisco said. “The stones were flying, pieces of brick, everything was flying.”
Mexico State governor Eruviel Avila vowed that “we are going to identify who is responsible”.
Deadly fireworks explosions have occurred with some regularity in Mexico. In 2002, a blast at a market in the Gulf coast city of Veracruz killed 29 while in 1999, 63 people died when an explosion of illegally stored fireworks destroyed part of the city of Celaya.