By LAURENCE ILIFF
MEXICO CITY -- A Mexican tanker truck loaded with liquefied petroleum gas crashed through a guard rail early Tuesday along a highway just north of Mexico City, plunging into a poor neighborhood and killing at least 22 people as the gas exploded.
One of the two gas tanks broke away from the truck in the San Pedro Xalostoc neighborhood just off the highway, setting fire to everything flammable in its path.
The Mexico state government on Wednesday gave a preliminary death toll of 22, and said 32 others were being treated in various hospitals, with ages ranging from eight months to 74 years old. The driver survived and was in the hospital under arrest.
The truck was identified as belonging to a company called Termogas, which distributes gas in several Mexican states. The company's website was offline Tuesday, and company phones weren't being answered.
The driver, Juan Olivares, 36, was heading to Mexico City from Pachuca, a city to the north, when he hit the center divider, said Jose Luis Cervantes, assistant prosecutor for the state of Mexico, the Associated Press reported.
Juan Valentin Maldonado Torres, 42 years old, said he and his family were sleeping when they heard an explosion at around 5:30 a.m. and awoke to find their roof on fire.
"We ran, we ran for our lives," he said in front of his destroyed home, which sits several yards from the highway along a muddy stream.
His sons, age 3 and 5, ran for the door as he scooped up his wife and 11-year-old daughter. The five slept in one room, with the children on bunk beds that were charred to their metal springs from the blaze.
Mr. Maldonado said five of the houses destroyed belonged to relatives of his, and that two relatives had been taken to the hospital.
State and federal police, fire brigades, ambulances and army rescue teams doused fires and rushed away victims following the blast. Later, civil-defense brigades began to remove dead animals, and the government electricity company began to restore power lines.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said he ordered the Communications and Transport Ministry to conduct a review of conditions next to the highway to take measures to improve safety.
Dow Jones Newswires