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23 dead in Mexico tanker blast

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
May 8, 2013 -- Updated 0253 GMT (1053 HKT)
Burned cars are pictured in a highway in Ecatepec near Mexico city, on May 7, 2013.
Burned cars are pictured in a highway in Ecatepec near Mexico city, on May 7, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The death toll after a fiery tanker crash rises to 23
  • Witness: "There was a flash, then a noise, and the ground began to shake"
  • The driver is in the hospital but under arrest
  • A tanker transporting gas crashed and exploded, police say

Read this story in Spanish

(CNN) -- A speeding tanker truck carrying gas crashed and exploded in a huge fireball along a highway near Mexico City Tuesday, killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens more, officials said.

"There was a flash, then a noise, and the ground began to shake," said Dulce Gonzalez, who lives in the neighborhood where the tanker plowed into homes early Tuesday morning.

Flames engulfed cars and houses near the explosion, video from CNN affiliate Foro TV showed.

As crews searched for survivors, residents combed through the burned out shells that remained where their homes once stood. Some rescuers removed livestock and pets from the charred ruins.

The federal highway division of the office of Mexico's transportation secretary said in a statement Tuesday night that 23 people had been killed.

Salvador Neme, the secretary for citizen security in Mexico state, said two of the victims were children.

According to initial reports from police, the tanker was speeding and the driver lost control, crashing into several homes and cars before exploding, Mexico's state-run Notimex news agency reported.

Federal highway officials said 26 people were injured after the explosion. Half of them were in serious condition.

The driver of the tanker was also in the hospital but under arrest, Neme said.

The blast occurred in the municipality of Ecatepec, in the state of Mexico.

At least 45 homes were damaged and 16 vehicles burned in the city, a large suburb near the nation's capital, Ecatepec Mayor Pablo Bedolla said.

Authorities opened a shelter in the area for 100 people left homeless after the fiery blast.

CNNMexico.com's Mauricio Torres and CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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