Investigators search for cause of deadly blast at Mexico candy factory

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA

WFAA Border Bureau

Posted on October 26, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Updated Saturday, Oct 26 at 7:32 PM

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

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CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Investigators are combing through piles of rubble to find the cause of a deadly explosion at a candy factory in Ciudad Juarez.

The death toll from the blast has now risen to three people. The explosion Thursday injured 50 workers.

“Since yesterday at five in the morning when he left for work, I haven’t seen him. I haven’t heard anything,” said Rosario de la Torre Mesa, whose son Miguel worked at the plant.

It was during his shift that a fiery explosion rocked the building, and the second floor of the factory collapsed.

The man's mother identified his remains after standing vigil outside the factory for two days.

Miguel Angel de la Torre Mesa was 20 years old. He leaves behind a wife and two young children ages one and two years old

His mother and other relatives began searching for him in area hospitals after the blast.

“I thought it was the end of the world," said Josefina Salas, who lives near the candy factory. She said the blast broke one of her windows and kicked up a huge cloud of dust into the air.

Salas' nephew, who also works at the plant, was able to escape without injuries.

Witnesses said there were not enough ambulances to take all of the injured to the hospital. Half a dozen workers remain in critical condition and may be transferred to burn units in Guadalajara, Monterrey, or possibly the U.S.

About 300 people work at the Blueberry factory in Juarez, which makes hard candy for Sunrise Confections, an El Paso-based subsidiary of Mount Franklin Foods.

Neither the U.S. company or Mexican factory has issued a public statement about the explosion or investigation.

“The only thing they do is lock themselves up,” said de la Torre. “They don’t say anything.”

Chihuahua State investigators are now handling the case.

“I can’t say for sure, but for now, that’s all,” said Adrian Lopez, an engineer with the Civil Protection Brigade, who said authorities had not discovered any more bodies.

One body was pulled from the rubble during rescue efforts. A 19-year-old worker died at the hospital.

Lopez examined the building after the explosion and said he does not suspect a natural gas explosion.

As the investigation begins, questions are growing about the cause, safety at the plant, and the emergency response in a border city that is home to hundreds of maquiladoras, factories that manufacture products for U.S. and other foreign companies.

“They hire people but don’t think of their safety,” said de la Torre.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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