13 dead, dozens hurt in blast at Pemex petrochemical plant near Gulf of Mexico
by Peter Orsi And E. Eduardo Castillo, The Associated Press
State oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) urged people to stay clear of the area after an explosion released a toxin-filled cloud
MEXICO CITY—An explosion has killed 13 people and injured scores at a petrochemical plant on Mexico’s southern Gulf coast, forcing evacuations as a fire billowed a huge toxin-filled cloud into the air.
The head of Mexico’s civil defence agency, Luis Felipe Puente, wrote on his Twitter account April 21 that emergency personnel had been able to enter the burned-out plant and found 10 more cadavers. Three workers had been reported dead immediately following the blast the previous afternoon.
The state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, said 136 workers had been hurt in the blast in the industrial port city of Coatzacoalcos. Eighty-eight of the injured remained hospitalized.
The director of Petroleos Mexicanos told the Radio Formula station that 13 of the injured were in serious condition, and said the death toll could rise.
Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya said the blast “was caused by a leak. … We don’t know how that leak occurred.”
Veracruz state Gov. Javier Duarte earlier told Radio Formula that the blast was felt as far as 6 miles (10 kilometres) away, adding that more than 2,000 people were evacuated from the area as a precaution.
Pemex reported the fire under control late Wednesday, but initially urged people to stay away from the area as a precaution.
“The cloud that emanated from the PMV plant in Coatzacoalcos is dissipating rapidly, which means it is losing its toxic effects,” it said via its Twitter account.
The company later said there was no longer any danger to people nearby. Still, local officials cancelled classes at area schools for Thursday.
Pemex said explosion occurred in the Clorados 3 plant of Petroquimica Mexicana de Vinilo. It said the plant is operated by another company, Mexichem, in partnership with Pemex. The plant produces vinyl chloride, a hazardous industrial chemical that is used to make PVC pipes and for other purposes.
The Veracruz state Health Department said in a statement that two patients were in grave condition Wednesday night from burns to their air passages from toxic gases. Others were treated for minor burns, contusions and broken bones.
There have been a number of accidents in recent years at facilities owned by Pemex or where it operates. In February, the company reported two people killed and eight injured in a fire on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
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