Witnesses reported a deafening blast and a huge column of black smoke in the Paramos area of the town of Tui (Pontevedra province).
Such was the extent of the conflagration that it was even heard and felt in Portugal – residents in the town of Valença, south of the border and a short driving distance from Tui, reported rumbling and feeling the ground tremble at around 15.25 local time (16.25 in mainland Spain).
The magnitude of the explosion nearly brought 12 neighbouring houses to the ground, leaving them with the severe structural damage that may be irreparable, and dozens more suffered damage – as did parked cars and other fixtures within a radius of at least a kilometre.
Rescue workers are still trying to access all the affected properties and an anti-bomb squad has been brought in to deactivate any further fireworks which may be unexploded.
The ‘warehouse’ was, in fact, a storage unit attached directly to a private house, and one of the injured parties – who managed to escape unaided – said three other people had been inside the property when it collapsed altogether.
Most of the injuries are not life-altering and over half have been discharged from the hospital, although one woman is known to have died and seven of the wounded are children.
Until firefighters can get inside all the crumbled houses, they cannot say for certain whether more people will have been injured or killed.
The fireworks had been illegally stored in an annexe of a residential house and belonged to a man who owns a factory that produces them about two kilometres from the site of the explosion.
He does not have – and would not have been given – permission to keep the fireworks on site, as these are required to be stored at a considerable distance from the nearest residential area.
Also, the fireworks factory had been shut down and sealed off a year ago due to planning issues, but local authorities in Tui did not know the owner had moved his stock to a warehouse on his own land.
An emergency help centre has been set up in the Guillarei cultural centre in Tui for affected residents, who needed a bed for the night and will have to be rehoused.
Galicia’s regional president Alberto Núñez Feijóo says those who have lost their homes or cars or suffered property damage in the blast ‘should not worry’ because they ‘will be covered in full’ for the costs, and that the ‘most urgent matter’ at present was to find out whether there were more victims, locate them and identify them.
The owner of the fireworks has been arrested and charged with negligent homicide.