Scene of yesterday's explosion in Coatzacoalcos. Scene of yesterday's explosion in Coatzacoalcos.

Chemical plant blast kills 13, injures 136

Chemical leak blamed for explosion at Pemex-Mexichem plant in Veracruz

Thirteen people were killed and 136 were injured yesterday afternoon in an explosion at a petrochemical plant in Veracruz.

The death toll may be higher, said officials with the national Civil Protection office this morning, as one hectare of the Pajaritos complex in Coatzacoalcos remained too hot to enter.

The explosion at the vinyl chloride plant, which is owned by Pemex and operated by petrochemical giant Mexichem, took place at 3:15pm and according to state officials was felt 10 kilometers away.

Of the injured, 13 were in serious condition this morning and 48 had been released. At least 18 people were unaccounted for.

Some 2,000 nearby residents were evacuated from their homes but have since been allowed to return.

Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente told Milenio Television that the explosion was caused by a leak of chloromethane, a highly flammable hydrocarbon.

Pemex boss José Antonio González Anaya, who inspected the plant with Puente following the explosion, confirmed there had been a leak but “we don’t know how that leak occurred.”

The operator of the plant, Mexichem, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of PVC pipe.

The company and Pemex said last night the situation at the plant was under control and there was no risk to people living in the area.

Source: Milenio (sp), BBC News (en), Plastics News (en)

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