Deadly explosion in Mexico caused by gas buildup, not bomb

A buildup of gas in the basement of the headquarters of the national oil company and not a bomb as local media reported caused the blast that killed 37 people and wounded dozens last week, Mexico’s attorney-general Jesus Murillo Karam, said late Monday.

However, La Nacion reports (in Spanish) the authority admitted that investigators were still looking for the source of the gas, and revising records of building inspections to determine why Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) had not discovered the gas accumulation. As a state company, Pemex is responsible for inspecting its own buildings.

There was scant evidence of the burn marks typical in a bomb blast and no sign of a crater like that typically left by an explosive device, he added.

The announcement ended days of silence and speculation about the potential cause of the company’s worst disaster in a decade.

The blast fuelled debate about the state of Pemex, a key source of revenue for Mexico, which is suffering from decades of underinvestment and has been hit by a recent series of accidents that have tainted its otherwise satisfactory safety record.

Until now, virtually all the accidents had hit its petroleum infrastructure, not its office buildings.

Pemex is at the centre of Peña Nietos’ energy overhaul that aims to allow private investment in the sector and so end the current monopoly. If successful, it would be Mexico’s largest reform in the sector since 1938, when former president Lázaro Cardenas privatized oilfields belonging to US and British firms.

The company was created as a state-owned venture 75 years ago and currently employs about 150,000 people. In 2011 produced about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil a day, according to its website, with $111 billion in sales.

Image courtesy of AP via You Tube


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