Rescuers searched for survivors and authorities promised a thorough investigation after a blast killed 25 people and injured 101 at the headquarters of Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos.
The cause of the basement explosion in an administrative building next to the iconic, 51-story Pemex tower in Mexico City remained a mystery early yesterday, with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto urging people not to speculate. Theories ranged from an electrical fire to an air conditioning problem to a possible attack.
“We have no conclusive report on the reason,” Pena Nieto told reporters. “We will work to get to the bottom of the investigation to find out, first, what happened ... and if there are people responsible in this case, that we apply the full weight of the law against them.”
Forty-six people remained hospitalized after the Thursday afternoon blast, some gravely injured and others with cuts, fractures and burns. Authorities said the dead were 17 women and eight men.
More than 500 firefighters, soldiers and rescue workers dug through chunks of concrete with dogs, trucks and a Pemex crane.
Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong said it was uncertain if any of the roughly 10,000 people who work in the five-building complex were still trapped, but that the search would continue.
The explosion occurred at about 3:45pm, just as the administrative shift was about to end. It hit the basement and first two floors, which rescuers said all collapsed onto each other.
“There is a lot of risk,” rescuer German Vazquez Garcia said of working on the site.
Pemex first said it had evacuated the tower and 14-story administrative building because of a problem with the electrical system. The company later tweeted that the Attorney General’s Office was investigating the explosion.
Ana Vargas Palacio was distraught as she searched for her missing husband, Daniel Garcia, 36, who works in the building where the explosion occurred. She said she last talked to him a couple hours earlier.
“I called his phone many times, but a young man answered and told me he found the phone in the debris,” Vargas said.
The two have an 11-year-old daughter. His mother, Gloria Garcia Castaneda, collapsed on a friend’s arm, crying: “My son. My son.”
The injured were taken to two Pemex hospitals and other facilities, including the Red Cross hospital in the Polanco neighborhood near the oil company’s office headquarters, where relatives huddled in the waiting room for news of their loved ones. Some walked out of meetings with the hospital social worker joyous, while others came out crying.
Pemex, created as a state-owned company in 1938, has nearly 150,000 employees and in 2011 produced about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil a day, according to its Web site, with US$111 billion in sales.