Police investigate cause of Mexico City office blast that killed 32

Explosion in Petroleos Mexicanos headquarters initially blamed on a gas boiler

Police in Mexico City were struggling today to determine the cause of an explosion which killed at least 32 people and injured more than 120 at the headquarters of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the country’s national oil conglomerate, as rescuers continued to search the rubble for trapped survivors.

The blast happened just before 4pm local time on Thursday, in the basement of an administrative building adjacent to the company’s main office. It tore through the lower floors of the 54-storey skyscraper in the downtown Miguel Hidalgo neighbourhood.

Pemex first announced on Twitter that its HQ had been evacuated due to an electrical failure. When it became clear that an explosion had occurred, early reports blamed a faulty gas boiler. Enrique Peña Nieto, the recently elected Mexican President, visited the scene on Thursday evening. He acknowledged that the cause of the blast was unclear, but pledged that if anyone were found to be responsible, the authorities would, “apply the full weight of the law against them.”

As a precaution, security officials swept Congress in search of explosive devices, but found nothing.

Describing the investigation as “complicated”, the CEO of Pemex Emilio Lozoya said yesterday that 20 women and 12 men had been killed, while 52 of the 121 injured remained in hospital.

“A fatal incident like yesterday’s cannot be explained in two hours; we are working with the best teams in Mexico and from overseas. We will not speculate,” Mr Lozoya told a news conference.

Around 3,500 people were evacuated from the building, Mexico’s second tallest. Some 500 rescue workers searched through the night with dogs, and at least one survivor was found alive in the debris. Shaken Pemex workers suggested the explosion felt like a bomb or an earthquake. Leticia Vigueras, 38, a finance department employee, told The Washington Post that at least one of her co-workers had been killed. “From the magnitude of the damage, it’s hard for me to think that it was an accident,” she said.

Mexico’s state oil monopoly has suffered a series of deadly disasters in recent years. In September 2012, 30 were killed by a fire at a gas distribution hub near the US border. In 2007, 21 workers died when an oil rig collided with a drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The firm has also been targeted by the country’s rampant gangs: in 2010, 28 people died in an explosion in the state of Puebla as a group of criminals attempted to steal oil from a pipeline. According to the Mexican newspaper Milenio, the government has repeatedly denied requests to update Pemex’s disaster-prevention equipment.

The company said its headquarters would be closed until further notice, but its oil production, fuel processing and distribution would continue to operate as normal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police