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Unexplained blast kills 25 at Pemex Mexico City headquarters

MEXICO CITY -- An unexplained explosion struck the Mexico City headquarters of state-owned oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos on Thursday, with the Associated Press reporting 25 dead and more than 100 injured. Rescuers were searching the rubble for survivors after the blast, with the report saying the explosion heavily damaged three floors of the 54-story Pemex skyscraper.

The explosion hit an administrative building near the company' s main tower, according to Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. He said the death toll could still rise. Officials say there were still people trapped in a basement floor of the building. Emergency workers were seen pulling victims from the building, which was badly damaged by the blast.

The cause of the blast wasn' t immediately known, officials said. Pemex said it had evacuated its skyscraper due to a power outage. It later said the evacuation was due to a blast. Pemex has a spotty safety record. Shortly before the blast, Operations Director Carlos Murrieta said, “company had cut its accident rate in recent years.”

Army soldiers arrived at the scene in addition to federal and local rescue workers. Dozens of ambulances lined the streets around the complex, while the injured were rushed on stretchers to waiting helicopters for transport to local hospitals. Images from a camera video broadcast on television showed a large fireball briefly going up around the company' s iconic skyscraper.

Christian Obele, a Pemex employee who was in the building at the time of the explosion, told Milenio TV that "all of a sudden there was shaking and we were in rubble." She said the explosion shut out the lights making it difficult to escape. Another witness in an adjacent building told the television station: "I just heard the building shaking, as if it were trembling very hard, and we started to see all the injured people, covered with dirt, and they evacuated us immediately."

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a message that he was headed to the complex to see firsthand what was happening. "I profoundly lament the death of our fellow workers at Pemex," he tweeted. "My condolences to their families" Mr. Pena Nieto, from the country' s centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, has vowed to try to push through changes to Mexican law that would allow private companies to partner with Pemex in search of oil.

Dow Jones Newswires

01/31/2013

 

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