Mexico Deadly Gas Plant Fire Called 'Unusual Accident'

Mexico Deadly Gas Plant Fire Called 'Unusual Accident'

Mexico President Felipe Calderon orders the prosecutor's office to join Pemex's investigation into a plant explosion, which he said could have turned into a major catastrophe if not for the quick thinking of emergency workers.

The Mexican gas plant fire and explosion that left 26 people dead near the U.S. border was an "unusual accident," state-run energy firm Pemex said Wednesday, ruling out foul play.

Another 28 workers were injured while seven remained missing following Tuesday's fire at the Pemex gas reception and distribution center near the border city of Reynosa.

"We have no evidence that it was a deliberate incident, or some kind of attack," Pemex director Juan Jose Suarez told reporters. "All the evidence points to an unusual accident."

Pemex pipelines have been targeted by fuel thieves in the past, causing leaks and in one case a deadly blast in 2010.

President Felipe Calderon ordered the prosecutor's office to join Pemex's investigation into the accident, which he said could have turned into a major catastrophe if not for the quick thinking of emergency workers.

"Thanks to their timely intervention, (plant) workers, firefighters and the Mexican army were able to contain the fire relatively fast and avoid a real, major catastrophe," Calderon said in Mexico City.

The president said the government will take measures to ensure that homes, businesses and factories in the north continue to receive gas after the accident.

The damaged plant receives natural gas from the Burgos basin and distributes the product to Pemex's gas and petrochemicals unit.

"We want to know exactly what happened, which is key to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again, particularly in such sensitive and strategic facilities for the country," Calderon said.

Witnesses said they heard at least two explosions before the fire broke out.

It was the third incident at a Pemex facility in a little over a month.

On Aug. 13, an explosion rocked a refinery in the northern city of Ciudad Madero, and on the same day a fire broke out at a pipeline in the central state of Hidalgo after thieves apparently tried to steal diesel from it. No injuries were reported in either incident.

The previous worst incident took place in December 2010, when an oil pipeline exploded after it was punctured by thieves in the central town of San Martin Texmelucan, leaving 29 dead, injuring more than 50 and destroying 32 homes.

In October 2007, 21 Pemex workers died during a gas leak on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Most drowned when they jumped into the sea in a panic.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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