PLANT

25 killed, 101 hurt in explosion at Mexican oil company headquarters

Cause of explosion remains unknown.


MEXICO CITY—Rescuers searched the rubble for survivors and authorities promised a thorough investigation after an office building blast killed 25 people and injured 101 at the headquarters of Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos.

The cause of the basement explosion in an administrative building next to the iconic, 51-storey Pemex tower in Mexico City remained a mystery. Theories ranged from an electrical fire to an air conditioning problem to a possible attack.

“We have no conclusive report on the reason,” president Enrique Pena Nieto told reporters. “We will work to get to the bottom of the investigation to find out, first, what happened work, and if there are people responsible in this case, that we apply the full weight of the law against them.”

Some 46 people remained hospitalized after the blast, some gravely injured and others with cuts, fractures and burns. Authorities said the dead were 17 women and eight men.

More than 500 firefighters, soldiers and rescue workers dug through chunks of concrete with dogs, trucks and a Pemex crane.

Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong said it was uncertain if any of the roughly 10,000 people who work in the five-building headquarters were still trapped, but that the search would continue. The explosion occurred at about 3:45 p.m., just as the administrative shift was about to end. It hit the basement and first two floors, which rescuers said all collapsed onto each other.

Pemex, created as a state-owned company in 1938, has nearly 150,000 employees and in 2011 produced about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil a day, according to its website, with $111 billion in sales. Pena Nieto, who took office in December, has made Pemex reform the centre of his platform, with a plan to pump new investment into a company whose profits feed much of Mexico’s federal budget, but which has fallen behind other oil companies in production, technology and exploration.

©The Canadian Press