25 killed in Mexico oil firm blast

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A huge blast rocked the headquarters of Mexican state-owned oil giant Pemex on Thursday, killing at least 25 people, injuring 100 and leaving rescuers scrambling to find survivors into the night.

Smoke billowed skyward as people fled the 54-floor Mexico City skyscraper, with some of those hurt in the blast being carried out on stretchers and office chairs, as witnesses recalled an earthquake-like rumble shaking the floor.

Cause unknown

Windows broke on several lower floors, scattering debris. The company said the cause of the deadly incident was under investigation and declared that any reports on the origin of the blast amounted to speculation.

Officials said the blast ripped through an annex in the evening causing severe damage to three floors. Witnesses said a roof connecting the annex to the tower collapsed. Thousands of people were evacuated.

A spokesman for the civil protection agency said there was an apparent "accumulation of gas" in an electrical supply room, but the exact cause of the blast has yet to be confirmed.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told a news conference that 17 women and eight men had died, and that 101 people had been injured.

Pena Nieto ordered that the rescue continue "to the last piece of debris, to be sure that there is not one single person trapped under," the minister said.

Previous incidents

The company has experienced deadly accidents at its oil and gas facilities in the past. Last year, a huge explosion killed 30 people at a gas plant near Reynosa. The previous worst incident took place in December 2010, when an oil pipeline exploded after it was punctured by thieves in the central town of San Martin Texmelucan, leaving 29 dead and injuring more than 50.

In October 2007, 21 Pemex workers died during a gas leak on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Most drowned when they jumped into the sea in panic.AFP



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