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Victims caught unaware in Guadalajara gas explosion

By
HARVEY RICE

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Most of the dead were in their houses when a gas explosion ripped up more than three miles of city street in southwest Guadalajara, crumbling houses and raining debris for blocks.

'It exploded like a bomb, but it wasn't a bomb,' said Alejandro Sanchez, who was working in the San Sabastiano de Analco market when gas that had leaked into a draining pipe during the night exploded about Wednesday morning.

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Sanchez ran outside the market, and saw 'a mushroom cloud rising' a few blocks away.

The gas explosion turned seven blocks of Avenida 20 de Noviembre and more than 20 blocks of Gante street into a 10-foot-deep trench filled with debris from nearby buildings, cars, buses and bodies.

In other areas of the city the force of the explosion turned manholes into gaping pits and sent manhole covers into the air.

Leopoldo Valeriano was tending his small store on Gante street when the explosion knocked him to the floor. Valeriano said his first thoughts were about his aged mother in the house next door.

'I ran to the house and moved the rocks away from my mother,' who was burried in the debris of what had been her house, Valeriano said.

His mother suffered bruises to her head, but the taco vender and a child Valeriano uncovered on street outside his store were dead, he said.

Valeriano and other witnesses said few people were on the street and most were in their houses when the gas exploded.

Ricardo Segun was in his house two blocks from Gante streeet when he heard an explosion so loud 'I could feel the pressure on my ears.'

At the corner 20 de Noviembre and Cuauhtemoc streets the walls of the buildings facing 20 de Noviembre had been blown away. A dump truck was on its side in a trench where the street had been, and a crane worked to pull two battered cars out of thehole.

All along the path of destruction brigades of volunteers labored to pull rocks, bricks and pieces of concrete from the trenches and the piles of rubble that had once been houses.

At the State Sport Center, by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday 170 bodies had arrived at and others, in two's and three's, were arriving at 10-minute intervals, said Moises, Mora, government spokesman at the Sports Center.

Bodies were lined in rows on the wooden floor of the Sports Center as dozens of ambulances streamed in. A dozen coffins were stacked at the rear door where hearses waited to take them away.

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