Mexico trying to identify fireworks blast victims

TULTEPEC (Mexico) • Mexico is working to identify charred bodies left by an explosion that killed at least 33 people at its biggest fireworks market, as the authorities investigated its cause.

Rescue workers were still searching on Wednesday for bodies - or survivors - in the smouldering wreckage of the San Pablito market in the Mexico City suburb of Tultepec. Dazed family members wandered outside the tightly guarded blast site, seeking information on their relatives.

Of the 60 people injured, 40 were still hospitalised, said Mexico state interior chief Jose Manzur. He added that forensic experts are carrying out DNA testing to identify the badly burnt remains, with just 14 victims identified so far.

According to officials, eight victims were minors.

The attorney-general's office has opened an investigation into the cause of Tuesday's blast, and state and federal agents were combing through the remains of the market.

Some witnesses said a rocket went off at one stall, triggering a chain reaction. "We cannot verify that theory, since the person working at the stall in question is unfortunately deceased," investigators said in a statement.

Madam Maria Centeno, 67, a fireworks seller who survived the explosion, is now haunted by an even greater fear: that the government might close the market forever.

"It is not that I want to sell fireworks, it is the fact it is our only source of employment in this town," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2016, with the headline 'Mexico trying to identify fireworks blast victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe