Mexico fireworks blast kills 14, 11 of them children

Puebla (Mexico) (AFP) - An explosion at a fireworks warehouse killed 14 people, all but three of them children, in a poor Mexican village as it celebrated a religious festival.

The blast struck Monday night in San Isidro, a remote farming village of some 40 houses in central Puebla state, the regional government said.

It came just five months after a similar tragedy killed 42 people in explosions at a fireworks market near Mexico City, in a country where fireworks are often used to mark saints' days.

Villagers in San Isidro were setting off fireworks as part of preliminary festivities ahead of the feast of the village's patron saint on March 15.

One of the fireworks "landed in a house where pyrotechnic material was being stored for use on the day of the celebration, causing an explosion which brought down the roof of the dwelling," the Puebla state government said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said that 11 of those killed "were minors aged between four and 15."

Nine people were killed on the spot and five others died later in hospital.

The explosion left 22 people injured, including three children who were in serious condition, an official in the state governor's office, Javier Lozano, told reporters.

"It is a tragedy. Most of them died due to the collapse of the building they were in," he said.

"Most of them were killed by being buried."

- 'Tragic accident' -

Army troops and government officials cordoned off the blast site as ambulances rushed in to collect the wounded.

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed on Twitter his "condolences for the families and neighbors of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident."

State governor Antonio Gali Fayad said he had ordered the authorities "to see to the wounded and give the village of San Isidro all the help necessary."

The state government said it was sending food, water and coffins to the families affected.

- Tultepec -

Last December, 42 people died and 70 were injured in a series of spectacular explosions at the country's largest fireworks market, in the firework-making town of Tultepec outside Mexico City.

The market was filled with people shopping for Christmas and New Year's festivities. It was reduced to smoldering ruins.

Investigators believe a rocket exploded at that market and set off a chain reaction of other blasts.

Saints' days, Christmas and New Year parties in many Latin American countries often wrap up with a fireworks free-for-all.

The San Pablito market had been rocked by two explosions in the past: in September 2005 and again the following year.

Both those accidents left dozens injured, but no fatalities.

- Mexico's firework tradition -

The fireworks industry brings in nearly $10 million a month in revenue in Mexico, authorities say.

Puebla government official Diodoro Carrasco insisted the industry "is perfectly well regulated," in comments to television channel Milenio.

"What is very difficult to supervise is the transfer of the fireworks, whether they are stored correctly," he said, however.

"It is very difficult to revise and monitor houses across the whole state, and even more so in communities in the hills that have a tradition of fireworks and a busy schedule of religious festivals."

The deadliest fireworks-related accident anywhere in the past 20 years happened in a shopping center in Peru in 2001 when an explosion in central Lima left 447 people dead or missing and hundreds more injured.

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