Mexico says gas leak caused deadly Pemex blast

Tue Feb 5, 2013 12:51am EST
 

By Lorena Segura

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican government said on Monday that a gas leak caused a blast that killed at least 37 people at the offices of state oil monopoly Pemex in Mexico City, raising fresh questions about the firm's safety record.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo said no trace of explosives was found at the site of the explosion, the latest in a string of disasters to hit the lumbering oil giant.

New President Enrique Pena Nieto is seeking to overhaul Pemex as part of raft of economic reforms aimed at boosting growth in Latin America's No. 2 economy.

"We have been able to determine that the explosion was caused by an accumulation of gas in the basement of the building," Murillo told a news conference in Mexico City. He said the gas was believed to be methane.

Murillo said the gas may have leaked from containers in a storage facility connected to where the explosion took place by a tunnel. Or it could have leaked from an aging pipeline that passed through the building.

Another possibility is that it emanated from sewage in the ground under the building, he said.

Mexico City is built on a dried-out lake bed, and the stench of sewage often hangs over parts of the city downtown.

Murillo said contractors working on supports under the building needed electricity and used an extension cord, which could have caused a spark that ignited the gas.   Continued...

 
A rescue worker from the Mexican rescue team known as "Topos" waves to the media after leaving the headquarters of state-owned oil giant Pemex, following a deadly blast, in Mexico City February 4, 2013. Mexican rescue workers found three more bodies over the weekend amid the rubble of the deadly blast that tore through state oil firm Pemex's main office complex, the government said, as search efforts appeared to near a close.The death toll from Thursday's explosion stands at 36, Pemex said via Twitter. Rescue workers had been digging through the last sections of the building's basement and could soon call off their search. One person was reported still missing. REUTERS/Henry Romero