By Bill Van Auken
20 September 2012
An explosion that ripped through a Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) gas pipeline distribution facility in northeastern Mexico near the US border Tuesday has left some 30 workers dead and dozens more injured.
The official death toll rose to 29 on Wednesday afternoon. PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, said on its twitter account that seven more workers are missing. A company official put the number at five, while warning that it could rise. At least 46 workers were injured.
The bulk of those who lost their lives in the explosion and fire were employees of a private contractor brought in to do maintenance work at the facility. Twenty-five of the contract workers are known to have died along with four employees of PEMEX itself. Part of the confusion over how many remain missing is the result of PEMEX trying to coordinate information with the contractor.
The explosion, which occurred at 10:45 am on Tuesday, ignited a huge fire sending towering flames and a column of smoke high over the facility, a gas distribution center located approximately 12 miles down the highway linking Reynosa to the city of Monterrey to the southwest. Reynosa is just across the US border from McAllen, Texas.
President Felipe Calderon said on Wednesday that the quick response of Mexican firefighters and army personnel helped avoid a “real catastrophe” that would have ensued had the blaze spread to a nearby gas processing plant.
Security personnel evacuated people from homes and ranches surrounding the facility for fear that the fire could ignite new and bigger explosions.
Initially, PEMEX officials tried to minimize the scope of the industrial disaster, failing to report the number of dead and injured early on and stressing that the fire had been quickly controlled. As the toll of fatalities became clear, however, the company was compelled to recognize the seriousness of the accident.
PEMEX Director Juan Jose Suarez told the media that there was “no evidence that it was a deliberate incident, or some kind of attack,” adding, “There is no reason to think that this terrible accident was caused by criminal gangs.” What has been learned so far, he said, points to an “unusual accident.”
(Continuing reading at http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/09/peme-s20.html
Video at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152362045915377