MEXICO CITY – An errant firecracker landed on a cache of fireworks and touched off a powerful explosion at a home in central Mexico, killing at least 14 people, 11 of them children, authorities said Tuesday.
Puebla state authorities reported that 22 others were injured in Monday night's blast in the town of San Isidro, in Chilchotla municipality.
State officials said the fireworks had been stored inside a home behind a church ahead of a May 15 religious celebration, and the firecracker that set off the explosion came from outside as part of a procession of an image of the local patron saint.
"One of the rockets that are being launched into the air doesn't go up but falls instead, it turns ... and it touches down right there in the room where the pyrotechnic material was," Puebla government secretary Diodoro Carrasco said in an interview with Milenio TV.
"Totally accidental," he added.
The ensuing blast blew out the walls and roof, destroying the home.
Cinco Radio posted a video on Twitter of a priest praying with community members, while images from Periodico Sintesis showed weeping residents hugging each other and walking through the wreckage of cinderblocks and twisted rebar.
Fireworks are a mainstay of holiday celebrations in Mexico, and accidental blasts are relatively common occurrences often with fatal consequences.
On Dec. 20 a particularly large chain-reaction explosion ripped through a fireworks market in Tultepec, on the northern outskirts of Mexico City, as it was bustling with shoppers stocking up to celebrate Christmas and New Year's, killing several dozen people.
There have been at least two other deadly pyrotechnic blasts in the country since then, including one at a home in Tultepec and another at a fireworks workshop in the central state of Tlaxcala, which borders Puebla.
Carrasco said Puebla state has strong regulations in place for the production and sale of fireworks, but beyond that it can be tricky to ensure safety practices are observed.
"It is very difficult to review and oversee the cases of the whole state and more so in the mountain communities that have this tradition and have an intense program of patron fiestas. ... What is very difficult to foresee is how (fireworks) are transported, whether they are stored properly," Carrasco said.
"Unfortunately we cannot be in all places at all times," he added, "and like last night, accidents happen."