At least 13 killed in blast at southeast Mexico petrochemical plant

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The death toll from a thunderous blast at a petrochemical plant in Mexico has risen to at least 13, an official said Thursday, in the latest accident plaguing the state-run oil giant Pemex.

The toll could rise further as another 136 people were injured, 13 of them critically, in Wednesday’s explosion, which sent up huge plumes of black, toxic smoke and triggered panic among locals fearing a repeat of a 1991 blast at the same plant that caused a deadly gas leak.The new blast at the petrochemical plant in the city of Coatzacoalcos in eastern Veracruz state was so powerful it was felt 10 kilometers (six miles) away. It shattered windows and forced the evacuation of schools and businesses.

The blast at the Petroquimica Mexicana de Vinilo (PMV) plant was caused by some kind of leak, said Jose Antonio Gonzalez, chief executive of Pemex.Crews kept working Thursday to cool off one particularly hard hit area of the plant, hosing it down with water.

Investigators have yet to enter this area because of fears that structures might collapse, Luis Felipe Puente, a senior civil protection official within the state interior ministry, told Milenio television.The plant “uses flammable materials like chlorine and ethanol but we do not know the cause of the leak,” told Televisa television.

Pemex provides one-fifth of the Mexican government’s revenue but has posted huge losses amid crumbling production and oil prices.

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