A runaway truck loaded with industrial gas exploded in a Mediterranean coastal campsite yesterday, engulfing hundreds of campers in flames.
Officials said they had recovered 114 bodies and feared the death toll would be much higher.
About 200 were injured, police said. They said some of the victims were blown into the sea 150 yards away by the blast.
Entire families were reported to have been wiped out in the flames. The site held an estimated 800 campers, most of them from France, West Germany and other Western European countries. Camp officials said none was American.
"It has all been horrible," said a policeman who was at the camp when the blast occurred. "Cries came out from everywhere in the camp. People could be seen running in all directions to safety. Some were ablaze. And we were helpless to do anything.
"I'll never be able to get rid of these horrible sights no matter how long I live."
Flaming gas from the truck set off a chain reaction of smaller explosions of campers' cooking gas bottles.
One police officer said the scene "resembles hell or what we think hell is like."
A dozen houses near the campsite were destroyed and some of the occupants were killed, police said. The blasts demolished about 100 camping trailers and dug a crater 20 yards in diameter and several yards deep in the campsite.
Doctors said they were having trouble talking to the injured, many of whom wandered about in a state of shock.
"It hasn't been easy since there are people who have refused to translate because of the shocking mutilations of the injured," one police official said.
Police said the injured were almost totally burned because most of the campers were sunbathing and wearing only swimsuits.
One little girl survived because she had left the campsite only moments before to buy an ice cream cone from a nearby stand.Another man was not injured because he left the camp early to go fishing after lunch rather than nap during the siesta.
Military personnel delivered beds and equipment to the hospital to convert its gymnasium into an emergency ward.
The accident at the Los Alfaques campsite near San Carlos de la Rapita on the Mediterranean Costa Blanca occurred about 2:30 p.m., the middle of the customary Spanish siesta period.
A Madrid propylene transportation company - Cisternas Reunidas - took responsibility and said an investigation has been ordered to find out what happened.
Police said the 38-ton propylene truck, carrying a single tank, overturned on a bend in the road, rolled over the cement wall that separated the campsite from the Castellon-Tarragona highway and exploded.Witnesses said the vehicle was going about 40 miles an hour when the driver apparently lost control.
Medical sources said most of the campers evacuated from the scene suffered extremely serious burns and many near death.
Vincente Mirabet, head of a unit for burned people at La Fe health center in Valencia, said 40 campers had been admitted and that "most of them are in critical condition. I don't think many will survive."
Medical sources said many of the injured campers, some with burns over 75 percent of their bodies, were taken to hospitals in Valencia. Tarragona, Castellon and Barcelona.
Antonio Betancurt, an officer of the paramilitary civil guard unit said he had many victims who were "all burned beyond recognition." He said a search was on for more victims and that identification of the bodies "is going to be really difficult, even for their own relatives."