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CNN 20: Explosion in Mexico City, December 11, 1988

Aired December 11, 2000 - 3:53 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Survivors said it sounded like bullets at first. Then came the explosions and fire. Flames spread throughout the popular marketplace in downtown Mexico City, destroying a number of stores and apartments. The area was jammed with shoppers. Residents were preparing to celebrate a Christmas fiesta today and the holiday of the feast of the virgin of Guadalupe, the country's patron saint.

Mexicans traditionally mark the occasion by setting off fireworks. Officials believe the first explosions occurred in one of the dozens of illegal fireworks shops, where merchants sell without permits.

This man said he saw people trapped by the fire, but couldn't do anything to help. This woman said a friend of hers was in one of the buildings with three children. And they never got out. It took several hours for fireman to put out the flames, as they coped with thick smoke and the potential for more explosions. Volunteers tossed buckets of water in a fire-brigade line, but most shop-owners said they had lost everything.

Mexico's newly appointed mayor toured the area and told reporters his administration would take immediate action, even if it meant banning the sale of fireworks in the entire city.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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