By ANTHONY HARRUP
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's state oil monopoly Petroleos
Mexicanos said the number of people killed in an explosion at
its corporate headquarters in Mexico City rose to 35 on Sunday
after rescue workers pulled two more bodies from the rubble of
the damaged office block.
One body was found overnight Saturday and another Sunday,
Pemex said in updates on the rescue effort via its Twitter
"I want to emphasize the complexity of the
investigation. We can't explain something like this in a few
hours," said Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya.
Mexican officials privately said there was no early indication
of sabotage in the blast, which sent a giant fireball into the
sky and partially destroyed an administrative building next to
the oil firm's landmark skyscraper, which has 48 floors and
towers over the city's central skyline.
Mexicans were shocked by the blast given that it took place
at the headquarters of the country's biggest company, a symbol
of Mexican nationalism. It also comes just months before
President Enrique Pena Nieto is expected to propose changes
that could end the company's monopoly on oil exploration,
allowing private firms to partner with the state firm for the
Analysts discounted the likelihood that the blast was an
"Instead, the explosion is a reflection of Pemex's aging
infrastructure and lacking safety protocols," Alejandro
Schtulmann, an analyst with political consultancy Empra, wrote
in a note to clients.
Pemex's headquarters lies in a dense neighborhood surrounded
by hundreds of illegal street businesses, some of them owned by
Pemex personnel, Mr. Schtulmann said. "Like most informal
businesses in Mexico, many of these street shops rely on
illegal connections to the local power grids as well as water
and gas lines," he said.
Twenty of those killed were women who worked in the building
in administrative jobs like payroll, Pemex officials said. Some
52 other people remained hospitalized Friday due to the
explosion, which the company said hadn't affected its oil
It was unclear how many people might still be trapped in a
basement part of the building, which was partially collapsed.
Hours after the blast, officials said there might be about 30
people left in the rubble, but then said that number couldn't
be confirmed. The four floors most affected by the explosion
normally had about 200 to 250 people working on them.
If investigations confirm an industrial accident, it will be
an embarrassing blow to the firm. Just two hours before the
blast at Pemex headquarters, the company touted its security
record at a conference titled "First Congress for Security,
Health and Environmental Protection" in the
city of Merida in eastern Mexico.
"Operations Director Carlos Murrieta pointed out that we
have reduced the occurrence of accidents in recent years,"
Pemex said on its Twitter page, adding that its accident rate
was below international standards for similar companies.
Pemex has fairly rosy numbers in terms of onsite industrial
accidents, but most of the people who have died over a number
of decades in Pemex accidents have been contract workers or
others killed by fuel leaks and gas explosions, and those
victims are not counted as workers for the purposes of
reporting industrial accident rates, said George Baker, who
runs a Houston-based energy consulting firm.
In September of last year, a massive explosion at a Pemex
natural-gas plant near the northern border city of Reynosa
killed 30 workers and caused critical shortages of the fuel,
causing the state-run electricity company Comision Federal de
Electricidad to switch to more expensive fuels in order to free
up some natural gas for industry.
Just before Christmas in 2010, a crude-oil pipeline ruptured
near the central Mexican town of San Martin Texmelucan, killing
30 people and damaging dozens of homes.
"This latest blast shows the results of a systematic lack of
oversight in contracts at Pemex that the company relies on for
everything, including industrial security," said Alberto Islas,
a security expert in Mexico City.
Mexico's lower house of Congress said this week it would put
together a working group of lawmakers to investigate corruption
within Pemex and the company's safety record.
Mexico's oil output has fallen to about 2.6 million barrels
a day from a peak of 3.4 million in 2004, and experts say
Mexico could cease to be a major oil exporter within the next
Pemex was created in 1938 after Mexico nationalized its oil
industry, a key moment in Mexican nationalism.
"This tells you that Pemex needs to change," said Mr.
Dow Jones Newswires