Search for survivors on after Mexican blast kills 32

Updated 02 February 2013
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Search for survivors on after Mexican blast kills 32

MEXICO CITY: Emergency services worked into the early hours yeterday to find people trapped in rubble under state oil company Pemex’s headquarters in Mexico City after an explosion that killed at least 32 people and injured more than 100.
Scenes of confusion and chaos at the downtown tower dealt yet another blow to Pemex’s image as Mexico’s new president courts outside investment for the 75-year-old monopoly.
Search and rescue workers picked through debris, and investigators sifted through shattered glass and concrete at the bottom of the building to try to find what caused the blast. It was not clear how many might still be trapped inside.
Pemex, a symbol of Mexican self-sufficiency as well as a byword in Mexico for security glitches, oil theft and frequent accidents, has been hamstrung by inefficiency, union corruption and a series of safety failures costing hundreds of lives.
Thursday’s blast at the more than 50-story skyscraper that houses administrative offices followed a September fire at a Pemex gas facility near the northern city of Reynosa which killed 30 people. More than 300 were killed when a Pemex natural gas plant on the outskirts of Mexico City blew up in 1984.
Eight years later, about 200 people were killed and 1,500 injured after a series of underground gas explosions in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city. An official investigation found Pemex was partly to blame.
Pemex initially flagged Thursday’s incident as a problem with its electricity supply and then said there had been an explosion. But it did not give a cause for the blast.
A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a preliminary line of inquiry suggested a gas boiler had blown up in a Pemex building just to the side of the main tower. However, he stressed nothing had been determined for sure. Others at the scene said gas may have caused the blast.
Not long after the blast, President Enrique Pena Nieto was at the scene, vowing to discover how it happened.
“We will work exhaustively to investigate exactly what took place, and if there are people responsible, to apply the force of the law on them,” he told reporters before going to visit survivors in hospital.
Shortly after midnight, at least 46 victims were still being treated in hospital, the company said.
Pemex said the blast would not affect operations, but concern in the government was evident as top military officials, the attorney general and the energy minister joined Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong for a late news conference.
“I have issued instructions to the relevant authorities to convene national and international experts to help in the investigations,” Osorio Chong said. He later noted that the number of casualties could still climb. Whatever caused it, the deaths and destruction will put the spotlight back on safety at Pemex, which only a couple of hours before the explosion had issued a statement on Twitter saying the company had managed to improve its record on accidents.
Nieto has said he is giving top priority to reforming the company this year, though he has yet to reveal details of the plan, which already faces opposition from the left.
Both Pena Nieto and his finance minister were this week at pains to stress the company will not be privatized.


86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

Updated 3 min 34 sec ago
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86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

JOS, Nigeria: Eighty-six people have been killed in an attack by suspected nomadic herders against farming communities in restive central Nigeria, police said on Sunday.
The discovery in the Barikin Ladi area of Plateau state came after days of violence apparently sparked by an attack by ethnic Berom farmers on Fulani herders on Thursday.
State police commissioner Undie Adie said a search of Berom villages in the area following clashes on Saturday found “86 persons altogether were killed.”
Adie told reporters six people were also injured and 50 houses razed. Bodies of those who died have been released to their families, he added.
The deaths are the latest in a long-running battle for land and resources that is putting President Muhammadu Buhari under pressure as elections approach next year.
The violence — fueled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances — has killed thousands over several decades.
Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009.
The Plateau state government said it had imposed restrictions on movements in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas “to avert a breakdown of law and order.”
“The curfew takes effect immediately... and movement is restricted from 6:00 p.m. (1700 GMT) to 6:00 am, except (for) those on essential duties,” said spokesman Rufus Bature.
On Sunday, ethnic Berom youths set up barricades on the Jos-Abuja highway and attacked motorists who looked “Fulani and Muslim,” according to those who escaped the violence.
Plateau state police spokesman Tyopev Terna and Major Adam Umar, from the military taskforce in the state capital, Jos, confirmed the blockade and vandalism to several cars.
There were no official reports of deaths but Baba Bala, who escaped the violence on the road, said at least six people were killed.
“I was lucky the convoy of the (Plateau) state government was passing through the scene of the attack shortly after I ran into the attackers,” he said.
“I escaped with smashed windscreens and dents on my car. I saw six dead bodies and several damaged cars.”