Fire destroys Mexican fireworks market, many injured

A fire destroyed Mexico's most famous fireworks market Thursday, setting off a chain of explosions in a town northeast of Mexico City that destroyed hundreds of open-air stands just ahead of Mexico's Independence Day celebrations.

"A great number of people were probably injured," Mexico State Civil Defense Director Roberto Vazquez said in an interview with Formato 21 radio.

Television images showed a tall plume of gray smoke rising from a broad, charred swath of gutted market stalls in Tultepec, a few kilometers (miles) northeast of Mexico City.

Vazquez said it was not clear how the fire began, but he said it set off "a chain explosions" that destroyed 280 to 300 stands.

A large percentage of Tultepec's people earn their livings from making and selling fireworks.

The explosion occurred hours before one of Mexico's biggest annual fireworks displays, the midnight Independence Day festivities that are celebrated with rockets and explosives throughout the country.

The Televisa television network said the initial blast occurred at about 1:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m. EDT, 1845 GMT). Radio reporters said they could still hear periodic explosions from the scene more than an hour later, AP reported.

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