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7 killed in explosion at Mexican resort hotel

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico - A powerful explosion Sunday probably caused by an accumulation of gas killed seven people, including five Canadian tourists, at a large resort hotel on Mexico's Caribbean coast, authorities said. Two U.S. citizens were among the injured.

Two Mexican employees of the 676-room hotel Grand Riviera Princess hotel in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun, were killed, said Francisco Alor, attorney general of Quintana Roo, where the resorts are located.

Two other Canadians suffered severe injuries and were listed in critical condition. Ten others, including the two U.S. citizens and eight Mexican employees of the hotel, suffered less serious wounds and were listed as stable.

Alor described a horrific scene in which the floor of the building was basically hurled through the ceiling by the force of the explosion, blowing out windows and sending fragments of aluminum window and ceiling panels frame over a wide area.

"Everyone said their hotel room shook. The glass at neighboring restaurants all cracked and blew out. The tiki hut that was in the area, that was on fire," said James Gaade, a resident of St. Catharines, Ontario, who was walking on the beach when he heard a loud explosion and saw smoke coming from the resort's premium platinum lounge.

Alor said the dead include four men and a woman, but offered no further information on the victims.

Playa del Carmen Civil Defense director Jesus Puc said the male Canadian fatalities included a 9-year-old boy, a 51-year-old man and two other men between 25 and 30 years old.

Canada's Foreign Affairs and International Trade department confirmed in a statement that one Canadian was killed, adding "we have received unconfirmed reports that three Canadian citizens are missing and seven are injured. No further information is available at this time."

The blast occurred on the ground floor of one of a dozen or so buildings that make up the sprawling hotel, and left a crater a yard deep.

It also blew out windows and hurled pieces of paving, glass and aluminum about 50 yards onto the palm-fringed lawn of the compound.

The area, next to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, was cordoned off and about 30 Mexican army soldiers stood guard around the hotel.

Alor and other officials, including Puc and local Red Cross director Ricardo Portugal, said the initial investigations suggest the gas that exploded beneath the building was apparently not for cooking, but rather a mix of gases from a nearby swamp. Officials said no gas lines were located in the area where the blast occurred.- AP

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