The death count from an explosion at a Mexican petrochemical plant on Wednesday April 20th has reached 24 people, according to officials. The blast, which occurred at a chlorinate plant in Veracruz operated by the Mexican oil company Pemex, also injured over 130 people, including a number of victims who suffered serious injuries. As of Friday, 18 people remained unaccounted for and emergency crews had yet to investigate one badly damaged portion of the facility.
Mexican officials reported the blast could be felt from up to six miles away, and that evacuations and safety protocol were enacted for nearby residents and communities. While investigations are still ongoing, information has been released indicating a leak was likely responsible for the explosion. There is currently no information as to what caused the leak.
As officials and emergency crews still tend to the incident, the injured, and their families, many are looking for how the blast occurred and whether it could have been prevented. The joint venture operating the facility, Pemex and plastic pipe maker Mexichem, does have a history of explosions and injuries at their facilities. This includes a 2013 blast at Pemex’s Mexico City headquarters where at least 37 people. Dozens were also injured the year prior at a Pemex-operated gas plant in Tamaulipas.
Wednesday’s blast serves to highlight the importance of regulations in a dangerous industry. Even when regulations are in place, shortcuts, violations, and negligent errors can also spell disaster that claims lives and affects nearby communities.