Death Toll Rises in Pemex Blast

32 people have died in an explosion at Pemex HQ in Mexico City

ByABC News
February 1, 2013, 10:45 AM

Feb. 1, 2013— -- Mexico's national oil company, Pemex, has updated the death toll on an explosion that ripped through its headquarters on Thursday afternoon.

The company now says that 32 people died in a blast that partly destroyed one of Pemex's office buildings in Mexico City on Thursday.

In a press conference on Friday morning, Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya said that the company's oil extraction facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere will continue to operate "without interruption."

But Lozoya said that the priority for Pemex at this moment is to take care of those who lost relatives in Thursday's explosion and to provide medical support to more than 100 workers who were injured in the blast.

"Pemex and its workers will emerge strengthened from this tragedy" Lozoya said in a somber tone. He was visibly tired and wore no jacket or tie.

Lozoya was appointed to the CEO job just two months ago by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. He was hesitant to provide journalists with hypothesis of what could've caused the Thursday blast.

"We are not going to speculate, or get ahead of ourselves, we want to act with a lot of responsibility in this regard," Lozoya said.

Shortly after the explosion occurred on Thursday afternoon, Pemex said on its Twitter feed that the explosion could have happened due to an electrical failure or problems with the gas supply.

But information about what really happened is still unclear. On Thursday night, Mexico's Interior Minister said in a press conference that experts were pursuing "all lines of investigation," including the possibility of a terrorist attack.

The building affected by the explosion was just seven stories high. It served as an annex to Pemex's main office tower in Mexico City, which is more than 50 stories high.

Pemex workers who were evacuated from the site on Thursday said that the explosion originated in the basement of the building, known as the B2 building. It destroyed much of the buildings first and second floors, causing walls and roofs to collapse, without taking the building down.

Alfonso Martinez, an employee at Pemex's marketing department, was approaching the B2 building when the explosion occurred.

"At first, we thought it was an earthquake," Martinez said. "Then I saw people evacuating through the stairs, but part of the building´s facade was missing."

Government officials said on Thursday night that some 30 people could be trapped in the rubble generated by the explosion in the basement and the first and second floors of the B2 building.

Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya added that about 250 people, mostly from the human resources department, worked in the area that was affected by the explosion.

On Friday morning rescue workers with dogs were still inspecting the site of the explosion seeking to recover bodies and looking for signs of life.