Latin America & Caribbean

Deadly gas tanker explosion in Mexico City suburb

Aerial shot of the highway where a gas tanker exploded on 7 May 2013 Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption The accident happened along the highway connecting the city of Pachuca with Mexico City
Cars and trucks caught fire in the explosion in Ecatepec on 7 May 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption A least 20 cars were damaged in the explosion on the highway
The remains of a gas tanker in Ecatepec on 7 May 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption One of the gas tankers was catapulted into a nearby house by the force of the explosion
A soldier examines houses in Ecatepec after a gas tanker exploded on 7 May 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Rows of houses built next to the highway were completely gutted by what residents described as a "ball of fire"
A burned out birdcage hangs from a wall outside a house in Ecatepec in Mexico on 7 May 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Residents described how the windows were blown in by the force of the blast which struck at 05:30 local time
A resident combs through the remains of his home in Ecatpec, Mexico, on 7 May 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There was little to salvage for residents whose homes had been in the path of the fire
A firefighter at the location of the explosion of a gas tanker in Ecatepec on 7 May 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Firefighters continued to search for survivors but said many of those who had died had been surprised by the fire while asleep in their beds, with no chance to escape

Rescue workers are searching the charred remains of houses and cars after a gas tanker exploded on a motorway in a suburb of Mexico City.

Mexico state officials said at least 22 people had been killed and 36 injured in the blast.

The explosion happened at 05:30 local time (10:30 GMT) on the highway between Mexico City and the city of Pachuca.

The driver of the lorry is under arrest in hospital, where he is being treated, officials say.

'War zone'

Assistant State Prosecutor Jose Luis Cervantes said the lorry hit a centre divider on the highway, about 14km (8.6 miles) north-east of the Mexican capital.

The lorry was hauling two gas tanks, one of which flew into a house and exploded, killing 15 people.

Mario Lopez managed to escape from the three-story home with his three sons.

"Everything was in flames," he said. "We got down and left crawling," he described.

The second tank hit another home, killing a family of four.

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Media captionFootage shows the aftermath of the explosion

Neighbour Rogelio Martinez said residents did what they could to help rescue people.

"We just pulled out burned people, and put out the fire in the houses, but we don't really know what happened," he said.

Some of the casualties were asleep in homes in poor areas along the edge of the road.

Mexican media said the area resembled a "war zone," with nearby homes and cars completely burned out.

Extensive damage

"It was a ball of fire," resident Carlos Gonzalez Silva told local radio, according to Reuters.

"We opened the door and it was like fire had blown through the whole of the garden."

At least 30 homes and 20 cars were damaged, according to local media.

The explosion is the latest in a series of accidents involving heavy goods vehicles and overloaded lorries.

In 2012, the government announced measures to lower the maximum weight allowed on freight vehicles and on Tuesday the transportation department said it had set up a panel of experts to further study the issue.

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