Tue, Nov 16, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Seven killed in Mexican resort hotel blast

AFP, CANCUN, MEXICO

A suspected gas explosion has ripped through a Mexican hotel, killing five Canadian tourists and two Mexican staff members while injuring 17 other people, said officials who ruled out an attack.

Army and police personnel rushed to the blast and cordoned off the Grand Riviera Princess hotel in Playa del Carmen, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast near the major resort city of Cancun.

The explosion killed “seven people, five Canadians — four men, one woman — and two Mexicans who worked at the hotel,” Quintana Roo state Attorney General Francisco Alor Quezada told Milenio television.

He said all the dead Canadians were tourists and the Mexicans included a tour guide and the hotel security chief.

He said the death toll rose to seven after one of the seriously injured died.

From Mexico City, the federal government expressed its condolences to the families of the victims.

“The Mexican government expresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the victims who lost their lives or were injured as a result of this deplorable incident,” read a statement released late on Sunday by the Mexican foreign ministry.

Alor Quezada said the 17 injured included seven Canadians, two of them in serious condition, two US citizens and eight Mexicans who worked at the hotel.

An early report said a gas tank had exploded in the hotel kitchen, but Alor Quezada said it had been caused by natural gas beneath the building.

Decomposing organic waste in a 120m2 pocket beneath part of the hotel lobby was believed to have generated the gas buildup, he added.

He ruled out a premeditated attack as the cause of the blast.

Jeff Zimmerman, who was staying at the hotel, said the explosion opened a hole in the floor of the hotel lobby area, creating a huge crater.

Images of the blast uploaded to YouTube by hotel guests show a large, green hole in the hotel lobby peppered with rubble, with rescue crews and hotel employees helping the injured into awaiting ambulances.

Zimmerman told Canadian Broadcasting Corp television he had seen a seriously injured woman.

“Half of her face was pretty much gone. She was seriously burned. She was critically injured,” he said.

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