Mexico Explosions Kill 56

A series of three or more explosions tore through a busy area of street stalls and shops near a downtown bus station in this central industrial town late Sunday, killing at least 56 people and injuring 348, many of them rescuers who rushed to help the victims.

Â"The smoke turned everything black. There were things flying through the air and falling on top of me,Â" said 21-year-old Hector Lara, a rescuer hospitalized with injuries from one of the secondary explosions.

The blast was thought to have started in the back of a candy store where fireworks were sold. More explosions were then set off, possibly from gas tanks in nearby restaurants or other fireworks stashes. Twenty-five businesses were destroyed and another 25 damaged.

Soldiers sealed off a large area of Celaya's downtown as they searched for more bodies. Officials said they were digging cautiously for fear of setting off unexploded powder.

Â"We're not discounting the possibility of another explosion. We have to be very careful,Â" said Sebastian Barrera, state undersecretary for security.

More than 500 people and 10 dogs searched for more bodies Monday morning, Barrera said. Â"We hope we don't find any more,Â" he said.

Lara was guarding the main bus station when he heard the first explosion. He ran across the busy commercial street to the rubble of what had been a store, plunged into the dark smoke and began to pull out the injured.

Â"I saw a woman covered with blood, screaming that her son was dead and that she wanted to go into the shop to find him,Â" he said.

Lara called for an ambulance, then became a victim himself. A second explosion minutes later threw him down the street and cut deep incisions into his entire body.

Lara's colleagues and the paramedics who responded to his call also fell victim to the explosion. As he recovered, a doctor told him one of his colleagues had died.

State officials said the dead included a policeman, two Red Cross workers, two firemen and a photographer for a local newspaper. The dead also included four children, according to the government news agency Notimex.

Some concrete buildings had their fronts blown off. The streets were piled with debris and bodies as firefighters sprayed water on the remnants of the fire caused by the blasts.

Eighty-one of the injured remained hospitalized overnight, many with partially amputated limbs and severe burns. Rescue workers and doctors were called in from as far away as Mexico City, 120 miles to the southwest.

Â"We don't have any hope of finding any more survivors. Just bodies,Â" fire Capt. Francisco Estrada said on local television. Â"There are probably many more under the rubble.Â"

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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