By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ and ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON
Soldiers guard the area as forensic workers gather evidence after a truck loaded with fireworks exploded during a religious procession in the town of Nativitas, Mexico, Friday March 15, 2013. A truck loaded with fireworks exploded during a religious procession in a rural village in central Mexico on Friday, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens more, authorities said. (AP Photo/J. Guadalupe Perez)
MEXICO CITY (AP) — A truck loaded with fireworks exploded during a religious procession in a rural village in central Mexico, killing at least 13 people and injuring 154, authorities said.
The blast Friday was set off when a firework malfunctioned and landed on the truck, igniting the fireworks it carried, officials said
“They were in a procession, they were shooting off rockets and it exploded and fell onto the other ones,” said Jose Mateo Morales, director of the Tlaxcala state civil protection department. “It was very serious.”
Human remains and burned clothes were spread around a 100-yard (100-meter) radius, including on rooftops, a photographer at the scene said.
The victims were marching in an annual procession in honor of Jesus Christ, the patron of Jesus Tepactepec, a village of about 1,000 people, Mateo Morales said.
At least one child was among the victims, Tlaxcala Gov. Mariano Gonzalez said.
Helicopters, dozens of ambulances and soldiers from the area’s military base rushed to the village, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) east of Mexico City.
Tlaxcala Bishop Francisco Moreno said he toured the scene of the blast and went to hospitals to visit the wounded. “I blessed all who died and said a prayer for them,” the bishop said in his Twitter account.
Fireworks are a typical feature of Mexican holidays and religious celebrations but they often are manufactured, stored and transported under unsafe conditions, and the country sees periodic fatal explosions.
Jesus Tepactepec is known for its handicrafts manufacturing, including baskets and wood figures, and its annual religious celebration draws artisans from nearby towns who come to sell their wares.