Massive Blast at Mexico City Oil Company HQ Kills 32

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 1 2013 11:17 AM

Massive Explosion at Mexico City Oil Company Headquarters Kills 32

Rescue workers search for victims at the headquarters of state-owned Mexican oil giant Pemex in Mexico City on Jan. 31, 2013.
Rescue workers search for victims at the headquarters of state-owned Mexican oil giant Pemex in Mexico City on Jan. 31, 2013.

Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

At least 32 people were killed and another 121 injured Thursday from an explosion at the Mexico City headquarters of Pemex, Mexico's state-owned oil company. The cause of the explosion is still unclear. Rescuers continued their search for survivors on Friday.

The company HQ is "a highly protected but decaying office complex," as the New York Times puts it, somewhat symbolic of the importance and burden the company represents for Mexico. Pemex, the Associated Press explains, funds a substantial portion of Mexico's federal budget. But the company has been plagued by its inability to keep current in technology and production against its competitors, and has a terrible safety record. The last accident for the company, a pipeline fire in September, killed 30 people. Recently elected President Enrique Peña Nieto had run a campaign promising to reform the company.

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Although initial statements from Pemex on the evacuation of their headquarters mentioned an electrical problem, Nieto cautioned reporters against speculating on the cause of the explosion. As quoted by the AP, he said:

"We have no conclusive report on the reason ... 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."

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the death toll could have likely been a lot higher had it occurred at another time of day: 4 p.m. is usually the end of lunch hour in Mexico. About 3,000 people were evacuated from the scene in the minutes following the explosion, but dozens were still trapped in the rubble as of Friday morning.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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