THREE PEOPLE have been killed and 136 more have been injured in a large explosion at a petrochemical plant in Coatzacoalcos, in the south-east state of Veracruz, Mexico.
The incident occurred at approximately 15:15 local time on 20 April, at the Petroquimica Pajaritos complex which is jointly owned by state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and chemical company Mexichem SAB.
In a press conference held with the director general of Pemex, the CEO of Mexichem, the governor of Veracruz, and local authorities, confirmed 88 workers remained hospitalised following the accident and 48 had been discharged thus far.
Javier Duarte, governor of Veracruz, said the blast was felt as far as 10 km away, forcing nearby schools and businesses to close and local residents to evacuate.
Witness footage showed a large fire breaking out after the explosion producing a toxic pillar of black smoke.
Immediately after the explosion, Pemex said all pipes and valves were closed off and the plant was evacuated. Pemex confirmed that the fire is under control, however, the plant remains closed.
Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator of civil protection said 2,000 of the evacuees had already returned to their homes.
Pemex said a full damage assessment and investigation into the cause of the explosion would be carried out once fire crews have deemed the site safe to re-enter.
Safety at Pemex facilities has been a recurring issue. A Pemex-owned oil platform off the Gulf coast suffered a fire in February 2016 and an explosion in April 2015, killing seven people in total. An explosion and fire at Pemex’s gas facility in Reynosa killed 26 people in 2012, and a further three were killed in an explosion at Pemex’s Tula refinery in 2011.
The company suffered a gas explosion at its headquarters in 2013 killing 37.
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