Fire erupts at largest Pemex refinery as workers suffer injuries

A fire erupted at Mexico's biggest oil refinery on Tuesday and some staff were evacuated, a spokesman for state-run oil company Pemex told news agency Reuters.

This week's fire at the Salina Cruz refinery is the latest in a string of incidents to hit the company's refineries.

The Red Cross said nine people were injured. Meanwhile, Pemex said eight people suffered minor injuries and were being treated, according to the Reuters report.

A Pemex spokesman said the fire had been controlled and that the refinery, which supplies fuel for Mexico's domestic market, was operating normally except for an alkylation unit. The refinery has 330,000-bpd of capacity.

Photographs taken by emergency services workers showed a blazing fireball and a thick black plume of smoke rising up into the sky from the facility located in the city of Salina Cruz in the southern state of Oaxaca. The cause of the fire was not yet known.

Luis Velazquez, a civil protection agency official in Oaxaca, told Reuters that nearby schools were evacuated and that local hospitals were on red alert to treat any injured.

"This is a highly populated zone," he said, according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, Pemex said that it had reduced its annual accident rate by more than 33%. However, a Reuters investigation earlier this year found that Pemex was reducing its accident rate by including hours worked by office staff in its calculations, the news agency reported.

There have been a series of recent fires at Pemex facilities including refineries and oil platforms, which comes as Mexico seeks to lure private investors to its domestic energy industry.

In 2013, at least 37 people were killed in an explosion at Pemex's Mexico City headquarters, and another 26 people died in a fire at a Pemex natural gas facility in northern Mexico in September 2012.

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