Two explosions on Thursday at a small fireworks factory in central Mexico left at least 19 people dead, including firefighters and police officers, and another 40 people injured, authorities said.
The blasts occurred at a facility in Tultepec, a town in central Mexico State known for its fireworks production, Xinhua reported.
The state Civil Protection agency confirmed the number of the dead, originally believed to have been 17, and the state Public Security Secretariat reported at least six of the fatal victims were firefighters or police officers attending to the first blast when the second occurred.
Among the injured were also a police officer and a firefighter, who were airlifted to hospitals in the state capital Toluca, the state government said in a statement. The rest of the wounded were taken to different area hospitals.
In a Twitter post, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto regretted “the loss of lives in the Tultepec explosion,” and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
The blasts ripped through a factory in La Saucera, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Tultepec, with the first explosion occurring around 9:30 a.m. local time (14:30 GMT). The second explosion occurred minutes later, after police and rescue workers had arrived to help the victims.
“We deeply regret the deaths, including those of fellow firefighters and police officers who saved many lives in exchange for their own,” the state’s Red Cross office said via Twitter.
Images taken from a distance of the first blast showed a tall plume of white smoke billowing into the sky, while closer video footage taken after the second blast showed firefighting crews hosing down burnt rubble outside the destroyed factory.
Known as Mexico’s “fireworks capital,” Tultepec produces some 25 tons of firecrackers and fireworks each year that are sold at markets around the country, especially in the lead up to the Independence Day celebrations in September.
In the past two years, explosions at licensed and makeshift factories, and the local fireworks market, have killed scores.
Barely a month ago, on June 6, seven people were killed, eight injured and nearly 100 homes damaged after an illegal cache of gunpowder exploded.
The worst incident occurred in December 2016, when firecrackers and fireworks were unintentionally set off at one of the market stalls, sparking a chain reaction of explosions that killed 42 merchants and customers.