At least 37 people were killed and scores injured late on Sunday night when a truck carrying explosives blew up after crashing into a pickup truck and catching fire, state and federal authorities said.
The victims included three local reporters, four paramedics, three police officers and more than a score of residents of the nearby village of Celamania. All were looking at the burning wreckage of the two vehicles when an enormous explosion ripped them apart and left a crater 4.5m deep and 18m across, officials said.
"The tractor-trailer turned over and started to burn," Jesus Torres Charles, the Coahuila State attorney general, explained in a radio interview. "When rescuers arrived, along with a local police unit and three local reporters, the explosion occurred."
Fausto Destenave Kuri, the state secretary of public security, said in a separate radio interview that the truck had been carrying more than 22,700kg of ammonium nitrate, an explosive used in the mining industry. The driver was trucking the explosive from the town of Cuatro Cienegas toward the border to deliver it to a company identified as Takata, the federal police said.
Later in the day, Takata put out a statement denying the shipment was theirs.
The truck had been leased by Orica, a company that transports explosives for the mining industry in the state. About 10:30pm on Sunday, the truck hit a pickup carrying a family, officials said. The accident occurred about 32km from Monclova on the two-lane highway toward San Pedro de las Colonias, just outside the city of Torreon.
Governor Humberto Moreira of Coahuila said the driver got out of his wrecked cab and warned motorists stuck on the highway because of the accident that the truck carried explosives. The driver then disappeared and has not been arrested, he said.
About 240 people were taken in buses to a hospital in Monclova, where at least 30 underwent surgery, Moreira said.