TIJUANA An attempt to steal copper pipes led to a gas leak that sparked a powerful explosion Sunday morning at an eastside restaurant that injured 25 people, 11 of them seriously, authorities said.
The Fire Department responded at 9:05 a.m. to a report of a gas leak at the Palacio Cantón Chinese restaurant on Avenida Principal in the El Florido neighborhood, Fire Chief Carlos Martínez said.
However, an explosion ripped through the eatery before fire crews could arrive, he said.
The director of the state's Civil Protection agency, Alfredo Escobedo, said that 25 people were injured, mostly shoppers at the mobile market that sets up in the neighborhood's main street on weekends.
Municipal and state emergency agencies said they were surveying the blast zone, in a working-class area, to determine the extent of the damage and the number of people affected.
"There are houses that were very much affected and we're analyzing what kind of support each resident will require," said Cuauhtémoc Cardona Benavides, Baja California's secretary-general.
The explosion reduced the restaurant to rubble. It was located in the first floor of a two-story building made of brick and wood.
A preliminary investigation showed that the blast was caused by vandalism in the restaurant's gas pipe, Fire Chief Martínez said.
"Someone tried to steal the copper pipe and caused a gas leak," Martínez said.
The blast also damaged two houses and a medical office, he added.
Three of the 25 victims had serious injuries that required surgery at the General Hospital and Social Security clinic. They were identified as Leslie Reyes Amaral, 7 years old; Martha Quiroz Sandoval, an adult whose age was unknown; and Jorge Domínguez, 25.
Also being treated at the clinic were Martín Rivas Miranda, José Solís Torres, Thianel Tapia Cárdenas, José Rosales Padilla and Rafaela Amaral Hernández.
And Christopher Sánchez Pérez, Vanessa Villanueva Yáñez and Héctor Manjarrez were being treated at the General Hospital.
Raúl López Escobar, Esteban Gómez Magaña, Alma Rebeca Yanoqui and Gloria Leticia Torres Medina were treated at the Red Cross Hospital and released. The rest of the victims were not seriously injured.