Mexico digs for answers after oil blast kills 25
MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Rescuers dug through the rubble and investigators searched for answers on Friday after an explosion rocked the headquarters of Mexican state-run oil giant Pemex, killing 25 people.
Another 101 people were injured in the explosion, which sent shocked employees pouring out of the 54-floor Mexico City skyscraper beneath a pillar of black smoke, some carrying wounded people out on office chairs.
Survivors described an earthquake-like rumble that shook the floor and shattered windows, while the company said the deadly incident was under investigation and that any reports about its cause amounted to speculation.
Officials said the blast ripped through an annex at around 3:40 pm (2140 GMT), causing severe damage to three floors. Witnesses said a roof connecting the annex to the tower collapsed. Thousands of people were evacuated.
As night fell, floodlights shined on the rubble and two cranes were brought to help rescuers in hard hats and surgical masks look for survivors.
Almost six hours after the blast, President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter that “one more person was rescued alive in the rubble.”
“I don’t have any conclusive report on the cause, which is why I insist against any speculation,” Pena Nieto told reporters after visiting the site.
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.
Almost eight hours after the blast, he said it was hard to know if anybody was still trapped in the rubble. He said he had ordered that “national and international experts” be invited to help with the investigation.
“The goal is clear: The investigation must produce precise, trustworthy and convincing data to find out the origin and cause of the disaster,” he said.
Emergency workers with rescue dogs, helicopters and several ambulances were at the scene in the capital – a city that is equipped to handle earthquakes – as dazed survivors lingered, shocked by the destruction.