29 dead after explosion rips through fireworks market outside Mexico City

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MEXICO CITY -- An explosion has ripped through Mexico's best-known fireworks market on the northern outskirts of the capital.

Images broadcast by Milenio TV on Tuesday afternoon show a huge plume of smoke billowing into the sky above the open-air San Pablito Market in Tultepec, in the State of Mexico. It's about 25 miles from the center of Mexico City.

The governor of the State of Mexico said 26 people died at  the scene of the explosion, and an additional three people died at the hospital, upping the death toll to 29.

Eruviel Avila Villegas said in a statement on the Mexican government website that three minors who were among the 72 injured were transferred to a hospital in the United States for treatment for their extreme burns and due to the need for specialists at that hospital.

"My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident and my wishes for a quick recovery for the injured," said President Enrique Pena Nieto via Twitter.

 Sirens wailed and a heavy scent of gunpowder lingered in the air after the afternoon blast at the market, where most of the fireworks stalls were completely leveled. The smoking, burned out shells of vehicles ringed the perimeter, and first responders and local residents wearing blue masks over their mouths combed through the rubble and ash. Firefighters hosed down still-smoldering hotspots.

National Civil Protection Coordinator Luis Felipe Puente told Milenio television that some nearby homes were also damaged. The scene remained dangerous and he asked people not to come within 3 miles (5 kilometers) to avoid hampering the emergency response.

Fireworks continued to pop off long after the blast, and Puente added that there was no choice but to let any unexploded fireworks be consumed.

Many agencies were on scene dealing with the fallout, including the Red Cross:

In 2005, a fire engulfed the same market, touching off a chain of explosions that leveled hundreds of stalls just ahead of Mexico's Independence Day. A similar fire at the San Pablito Market also destroyed hundreds of stands in September 2006.

Many in Mexico traditionally celebrate holidays — including Christmas and New Year's — by setting off noisy firecrackers and rockets.