Mexico fireworks explosion kills 11, injures dozens

PUEBLA, Mexico (AFP) - A small truck loaded with fireworks exploded during a religious procession in a central Mexican village on Friday, killing at least 11 people and injuring dozens.

One witness said he saw "bodies flying" as people ran for cover after a stray firework landed on the truck in Jesus Tepactepec in the middle of a march for the village's patron saint.

"My God, this is a tragedy," said the bishop of Tlaxcala, Francisco Moreno, visibly shaken by the scene as he surveyed the site after the explosion.

A spokeswoman for the Tlaxcala state government said eight men and one woman were killed instantly in the village, which is part of the municipality of Nativitas, 125km east of Mexico City.

Another man died in an ambulance. The 11th victim died while being treated in a hospital. Some 70 people were injured, including four with serious burns.

Around 45 people were rushed to hospitals in the neighbouring state of Puebla. Some injured children were transported by helicopter.

A witness said a group of 200 people were on a field where pyrotechnics were being lit when "everything began to explode." "Many of us were able to run, but we saw bodies flying, then everything went black," Isidro Garcia Vazquez told reporters.

Witnesses said they saw a baby among the victims.

A civil protection official said rescuers were looking for bodies in a canal. The army was helping with the emergency response.

Mexicans often set off fireworks during celebrations, but accidents have happened in the past due to the mishandling of the pyrotechnics or a lack of safety measures.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said federal authorities were assisting state officials and that the victims can get treatment at the national burn victim centre.

"I regret the terrible accident in Tlaxcala. My condolences to the families of the deceased," Pena Nieto wrote on Twitter.

Tlaxcala Governor Mariano Gonzalez Zarur declared three days of mourning.

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