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Mexico petrochemical plant explosion kills 32, injures 136

25 April 2016

A large explosion at an oil and chemical facility in the south-east Mexican state of Veracruz has killed 32 and injured 136 more, according to local sources. The blast hit a facility 50% owned by Mexico's state oil company, Pemex, in the port city of Coatzacoalcos and hundreds of people were evacuated and schools closed after the event.

Image: Veracruz State Government
Image: Veracruz State Government

The incident occurred mid-afternoon on April 20, Pemex said in a statement. Veracruz state Governor Javier Duarte told a radio station the blast was felt 10 kilometres away. Of the 136 people injured, 88 remain in hospital, 13 of whom are in a serious condition, Pemex said.

The fire was under control by early evening, Pemex said. Residents were told to stay indoors because of the possible toxic nature of the smoke from the blast, but Pemex said the smoke dissipated quickly, lessening any possible toxic effects.

The incident took place at Petroquimica Mexicana de Vinilo (PMV), a joint venture between Pemex‚Äôs petrochemical unit and Mexican plastic pipe maker Mexichem. Initial reports put the number of fatalities at three, but this increased steadily over the following five days as rescue workers gained access to the affected areas of the plant. 

In February a fire killed a worker at the PMV plant, which makes vinyl chloride monomer, also known as chloroethene, an industrial chemical used in plastic piping. That incident occurred just weeks after three workers were killed and seven injured when a fire broke out on a Pemex oil processing platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2013 at least 37 people were killed by a blast at its Mexico City headquarters, and 26 people died in a fire at a Pemex natural gas facility in northern Mexico in September 2012.

Pemex has said it reduced its annual accident rate in 2014 by more than 33%. But a Reuters investigation found that Pemex was reducing its accident rate by including hours worked by office staff in its calculations.

The group is currently implementing deep cost cuts to cope with a sharp drop in oil prices and a big fall in output. Mexico is also in the midst of a historic push to lure private investors to revive its oil industry.

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