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19 killed in gas truck blast as fireball rips through cars, homes in Mexico

An explosion of a gas tanker truck north of Mexico City killed at least 19 people. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

MEXICO CITY -- A gas tanker truck exploded on a highway north of Mexico City early on Tuesday, killing at least 19 people and injuring 36 others as a fireball tore through cars and homes.

Pablo Bedolla, mayor of the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec, said 19 people died in the blast that engulfed early morning traffic.

Victor Rojas / AFP - Getty Images

Remains of a gas tanker are seen amid charred wreckage next to a highway north of Mexico City on Tuesday. The resulting explosion killed at least 19 people.

Television footage showed burned out vehicles and debris strewn all over the highway on the edge of the capital.

"It was a ball of fire which exploded as though they'd put a spotlight in the whole window," resident Carlos Gonzalez Silva, who was in a nearby house at the time of the blast, told Mexican radio. "We opened the door and it was like fire had blown through the whole of the garden."

Arturo Vilchis, head of emergency services in the State of Mexico, which abuts the capital, said 36 people were injured and that 13 of them had been hospitalized. Twenty homes and 16 vehicles were damaged by the explosion, he added.

Mexican radio station Formato 21 said a family of four, including two children aged 11 and 6, were among the dead.

In January, a massive blast at the headquarters of state oil giant Pemex in downtown Mexico City claimed dozens of lives.

Media reports said the gas tanker did not belong to Pemex. The state oil company said it would help the company involved in rescue efforts.