Mexico's oil pipeline explosion death toll rises to 27

08:19, December 20, 2010      

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Mexican firefighters try to extinguish the fire after the explosion of a Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) pipeline in the village of San Martin Texmelucan in Puebla State, Mexico, on Dec. 19, 2010. At least 27 people were killed early Sunday when the oil pipeline exploded in central Mexico, the authorithies said. (Xinhua/Rafael Murillo)

The death toll of an oil pipeline explosion in central Mexico rose to 27 with 52 injuries, state-run energy giant Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) said in a statement on Sunday.

Earlier on Sunday, an official from the Puebla state government told Xinhua by telephone that the explosion took place after criminals tapping two oil pipelines running through Puebla town San Martin Texmelucan lost control of oil flow.

The Puebla official said that 33 homes were completely destroyed by the explosion and 32 more were seriously damaged. Pemex said that a total of 115 houses had been affected. Regional authorities are now moving 5,000 residents of the town to the Angeles Blancos emergency shelter and cleanup work is under way. Pemex said that the incident began at 5.50 a.m. local time. The fire had been put out by 10 a.m. local time. Pemex investigators are at the scene seeking the cause of the explosion. The area is now being guarded by 125 soldiers, it added.

Valentin Meneses, who heads Puebla's Interior Ministry, told media that 10 of the dead are from one family, whose home was close to the explosion site. He is at the scene of the incident. The nation's Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora is traveling to San Martin. The two are set to give a joint press conference later on Sunday.

More than 25 vehicles were burned and windows were smashed in a three-kilometer radius of the explosion site, Alberto Perez, who mans the state's emergency service phone lines, told local media. The explosion took place close to San Martin Texmelucan, where Pemex owns a large chemical plant.

Perez said rescuers included soldiers and fire crews from state capital Puebla City, San Martin, Huejotzingo, and neighboring state Tlaxcala.

Residents of small town San Francisco Tepeyacac, around 10 kilometers from the explosion, told Xinhua that there is a column of toxic gas moving from the explosion site towards Puebla City, which is around 250 km east of Mexico City.

Miguel Angel Martinez, who heads Puebla State's civil protection department, told local media that the smoke had reached a height of 50 meters.

Pemex sources said that parts of the nearby Atoyac River has also suffered pollution.

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