Mexico Says Gas Buildup Caused Pemex Blast, Origin Unclear

The blast that killed at least 37 people at state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos’s headquarters in Mexico City last week was caused by a gas buildup, the nation’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo said.

Investigators are still trying to conclude if the gas buildup was accidental or whether someone caused it intentionally, Murillo told reporters at a press conference today in the country’s capital. “We have determined that the explosion was caused by a gas buildup,” he said.

Murillo said that although the causes of the blast require further review, authorities have early indications that the incident involved methane gas. The origins of the gas are still being investigated and there was no sign of any explosive device at the site, according to Murillo.

This is the first time Mexican officials have offered an explanation for the Jan. 31 blast at the so-called B2 building at the headquarters of the nation’s largest company by revenue and the world’s fourth-biggest crude producer. Forensic, chemical and explosive experts from the attorney general’s office, the Defense Ministry, the Navy, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Spain’s National Police took part in the initial stage of the inquiry.

Pemex employees are set to return to work at the headquarters complex Feb. 6, Chief Executive Officer, Emilio Lozoya, said at the same event. The buildings were declared safe after a comprehensive security inspection, he said. The company had originally suspended work at its administrative offices until Feb. 5.

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