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Explosion and fire at Mexico gas facility kills 26

20 September 2012

An explosion and fire killed at least 26 people at a Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) natural gas facility in northern Mexico on September 18. Four of those killed yesterday were Pemex staff, and the other 22 were contract workers, the company said. Seven workers were still missing, while 28 people were hospitalised, two in serious condition, Pemex said.

The Reynosa gas compression station imports gas from the USA and is the central processing facility for the local Burgos field
The Reynosa gas compression station imports gas from the USA and is the central processing facility for the local Burgos field

The incident happened at a gas compression station near the city of Reynosa (Tamaulipas state), a key entry point for natural gas to Mexico from the United States.

At least 700 people were working in the facility at the time of the blast, and Tamaulipas authorities temporarily evacuated residents living within a 5km radius of the plant. The fire took two hours to extinguish.

"Specialised technicians with Pemex Exploration and Production will proceed to carry out the analysis of the root cause of the accident, as well as the evaluation of the damage caused to the installation," the state oil monopoly said.

"There is no evidence that the explosion was provoked, but rather that it was an accident," Pemex chief executive Juan Jose Suarez Coppel told reporters after touring the site.

The fire disrupted gas distribution in the area after Pemex turned off the pipeline, and local deliveries could be put under more serious strain if the shutdown is prolonged.

This was Pemex's worst accident since October 2007, when 22 workers died on an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. 

It was the third blaze in about five weeks at state-run oil monopoly Pemex installations in Tamaulipas, a border state that has struggled to contain the menace of warring drug gangs. Earlier this month, four Pemex workers were injured after a fire broke out at the Madero refinery in Tamaulipas. Another blaze at the same refinery occurred on August 13.

Illegal tapping of pipelines, often by criminal gangs, has cost Mexico hundreds of millions of dollars and sparked other major fires in the past.

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