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14 killed in explosion at Mexico's state-owned oil company

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 10:16 p.m.
 

MEXICO CITY — An explosion ripped through the high-rise headquarters of Mexico's state oil company on Thursday, killing at least 14 people, according to a government minister, and injuring more than 100.

The explosion shook the iconic 54-story headquarters of Petroleos Mexicanos, the second tallest building in the capital, at 3:55 p.m. local time, the end of the Mexican lunch break when hundreds of people would have been moving about the complex. As darkness fell, search teams were pulling people from the complex. Presidential spokesman David Lopez said employees remained trapped inside.

Pemex representatives said on the company's Twitter account that the explosion hit a smaller building adjacent to the main tower, causing damage to the first and second floors and leading to the evacuation of the complex. The cause was not immediately known.

“It was a big explosion. Then we were amid rubble,” Pemex employee Cristian Obele said. “I've never lived through something like this.”

Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong told Foro TV that 13 people had died at the site, 1 perished in a hospital and “more than 80 persons are injured up to this point.”

“The priority at this time is to attend to the injured and ensure the physical safety of those who work there,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said on his Twitter account.

Thirty people remained missing, Foro TV said. Rescue teams using sniffer dogs took part in a search effort. Shattered glass littered streets surrounding the complex, which is located in the Anzures district near central Mexico City. Sirens from ambulances wailed throughout the streets surrounding the complex and helicopters hovered overhead.

High-ranking government officials flooded the scene, a sign of the importance to Mexico of Pemex, which provided 34 percent of total government revenues in 2011, according to estimates by the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration.

Osorio Chong joined Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera at the site. Pena Nieto offered his condolences via Twitter, saying “I deeply lament the deaths of our fellow Pemex workers,” adding in a later tweet that he was headed to the site.

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